October ended with another product from Microsoft coming to an end, Kinect – which I also invested in including being in the Kinect for Windows Developer programme
October has been the month for Microsoft ending consumer products and services, starting with Groove Music, then Windows 10 Mobile and now Kinect. As it was announced this week that the Kinect sensor was no longer being manufactured. Kinect was the revolutionary motion sensor designed to be used with the Xbox to allow interaction with games like never before to understand gestures, body movements and spoken commands. The original Kinect sensor appeared for the Xbox 360 and combined an RGB camera, depth sensor and multi-array microphone running proprietary software and the sensor tracked full-body movement and individual voices, turning the player into the controller – this used technology developed by Prime Sense, a company later purchased by Apple and is the technology behind the iPhone X’s notch sensor array. I also was a great supporter of Kinect and joined the Kinect for Windows programme as one of a select few developers who used the newer Kinect sensor which included getting a prototype Kinect sensor and a production Kinect for Windows sensor – although I wasn’t able to fully utilise this as I much as would have liked due to personal reasons at the time.
For the launch of Xbox One a second generation Kinect sensor was developed which used a time-of-flight camera, this emits light signals and then measures how long it takes them to return and with such measurements, the camera is able to differentiate light reflecting from objects in a room and the surrounding environment. That provides an accurate depth estimation that enables the shape of those objects to be computed. Another feature of the Kinect stems from its infrared sensor which can identify objects in a completely darkened room and could recognise people and track bodies even without any light visible to the naked eye, plus identify a hand pose from four meters away, see the fingers of a child, or even remember an identity minus any room illumination. Plus a wider field of view made it possible for more players to play an Xbox One game at the same time with as much as many as six players could crowd into one scene or get a better experience if standing close by, further away, or even in the periphery of a room.
Both generations of Kinect sensor tried to bring motion control into the home and with improvements in the second generation made it even more accurate and reliable plus with integrations with voice commands for the console and later Cortana, this did seem like the sensor had a long life but with the Xbox One S not having the Kinect port built-in and required an adaptor it did seem like the Kinect sensor was taking a step back from being a main priority of the console and with the up-coming Xbox One X also lacking the port it was just a question of when, not if Kinect would be cancelled – and this decision came with an announcement this week that Microsoft shared with Co.Design that the Kinect sensor was no longer being manufactured and finally put an end to the speculation about what would happen to it. Kinect also featured on Windows with both the original Kinect sensor and the second generation sensor being supported as the product Kinect for Windows but this was also not as popular as anticipated – so now with the Kinect sensor officially being cancelled it marks the official end of motion controllers for the Xbox platform, it will be interesting to see what forms of interaction with the Xbox are in future, but for now it’s time to say goodbye to another Microsoft product, Kinect.