Microsoft is encouraging academic and enthusiast programmers to experiment with Kinect by downloading the free beta of the device's software development kit.

The SDK is compatible with Windows 7, and includes drivers and APIs for the device, allowing those who build applications using C++, C# or Visual Basic in Microsoft's Visual Studio 2010 to make use of the device.

What does this mean for gamers, though? Well, for starters, a lot more people will be developing for Kinect, which means we'll see some interesting titles as people try to push the boundaries of what the device is capable of.

Given that the SDK includes Windows 7 drivers, too, that likely means we'll see some independent Kinect-compatible PC titles emerging, as well as some of the more interesting implementations of the device finding their way onto your Xbox 360 via Kinect Labs.

The SDK is distributed under a non-commercial licence, so any Kinect curios that people produce will be free for now. A commercial licence is coming at a later date.

Find out more about the SDK, and some interesting background information on the device's development, at the Microsoft Research site.