For some fans of the Xbox gaming system, the upcoming Xbox One release is bittersweet news. The issue is not title availability. It's Microsoft's next generation of Kinect sensor, which has to be connected to the console for both to function.
The Microsoft next-gen Kinect. (Source: Microsoft)
Think of the next-gen sensor as a power button for the console with an impressive array of hardware. The new Kinect will feature a high-definition 3D camera system that can put out 1080p HD images at an ultra-smooth rate of 60 frames per second. It will also use a regular imaging sensor for initial visualization of users, and it will offer Skype transmissions at a slightly lower resolution (720p). One unique feature is an infrared imager that takes advantage of the time of flight of photons to gauge depth better than its predecessor. It can detect objects even in complete darkness.
The system is so sensitive that it can detect the user's pulse by detecting changes in skin color. A rather unusual facet of the sensor is its ability to sense the user's emotional state by tracking eye and head positions and lip movement. Microsoft says the system can tell with 90 percent accuracy whether you are paying attention to it. The new microphone system may give some people a sense of privacy invasion; it constantly listens for voice commands, even while the Xbox One is off. The four-microphone array is used for multiple purposes, such as providing additional data on user tracking and allowing users to navigate through game titles and even TV channels without a remote.
The new sensor looks to be a huge improvement over the previous one, which has been used for everything from simple gaming to advanced robotics. In a recent press release, Microsoft announced that developers will be able to get their hands on the next-gen sensor before it's released to the masses. Developers can apply now to take part in the SDK program, which will begin in November. Participants will receive an alpha version of the Kinect and the final product when it launches -- all for $399. In addition, participants will have access to a Kinect engineering team (through a private forum), early SDK access, and all the API documentation needed to get started with their projects.
I see the next Kinect sensor as more of a home entertainment assistant than something purely related to gaming. That said, Microsoft seems to be shiping out early copies to devs in an attempt to gain an edge over SONY. Smooth move, but then again, we don't know if SONY has already done the same with PS4.
I heard Kinect takes control over your home entertainment preferences. If Kinect detects that there's more than a certain number of people in a room, it will refuse to play a movie. These kind of gestures, at best, seem bothersome to me.
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