The Kinect, a motion detection add-on for the Xbox 360, has by most
measures been a huge hit for Microsoft, which reportedly invested half a billion
dollars in developing the product and technology behind it.

Originally intended to revolutionize gaming, the Kinect has found
applications well beyond gaming, from retail to healthcare thanks to the
creativity of third parties.

Microsoft was initially wary of third parties ‘hacking‘ Kinect, but earlier this year the software giant released a Kinect SDK, allowing third parties to develop non-commercial applications that make use of the Kinect. And to appease those who are itching to develop commercial applications, Microsoft revealed that it would release a commercial SDK in 2012.

Yesterday, the company added on to those plans with the announcement of a Kinect incubator program. Dubbed The Kinect Accelerator, Microsoft is teaming up with “startup accelerator” TechStars to support “entrepreneurs, engineers and innovators…to bring to life a wide range of business ideas that leverage the limitless possibilities Kinect enables.

The ten applicants chosen to participate will relocate to Seattle from March to May, 2012, where Microsoft and TechStars will provide office space, $20,000 in investment plus access to Microsoft technical resources and executives. The three month program will culminate with a demo day in which participants show off their wares to Microsoft execs, investors and media.

Of course, all of the perks aren’t being provided for free. As with the TechStars program itself, participants will give 6% equity to the incubator. That may give some entrepreneurs interested in building a business around the Kinect pause, but assuming Microsoft launches a general commercial SDK in 2012 as planned, it’s hard to see Kinect Accelerator doing anything but good.

If Microsoft’s lucky, the ten applicants it selects will provide some impressive case studies for how the Kinect can be used and show that there’s money to be made in the Kinect for companies other than Microsoft.