The motion sensing technology in the current generation of video game consoles left something to be desired. Despite a successful launch and some impressive tech within, Xbox 360’s Kinect never quite received the critical acclaim or the developer backing Microsoft must have hoped for. The Kinect team had an even taller order this time around, as the Kinect was no longer an optional accessory — for the next generation, Microsoft wanted to make the Kinect an inseparable part of the Xbox One. As the hardware team explains on Microsoft’s TechNet blog, the pressure was immense and on more than one occasion, the team wasn’t sure if they would have the product ready in time.
Part of what makes the Xbox One Kinect so much more capable than its predecessor (and so much more difficult to build) is its time-of-flight camera, which “needs to be accurate to 1/10,000,000,000 of a second.” In other words, light speed. Cyrus Bamji, an architect for Microsoft’s Architecture and Silicon Management group, explains that the time-of-flight tech included in the Kinect is relatively new, so his team could not even begin to predict all the issues that might arise when building the Kinect with this recent technological advancement.
Some of those challenges included objects in the foreground melting into the background, small objects (such as fingers) disappearing entirely, and ensuring that “only a small part of Xbox One’s computing power [would] be harnessed” for the Kinect.
It required a collaborative effort from several hardware and research teams at Microsoft, but the Kinect was completed in time for the Xbox One’s holiday release. The Kinect is not only significantly more powerful than before; it also includes new features that should lay to rest any quibbles about the additional $100 on the Xbox One price tag. Those features include an infrared sensor, which can pick out objects in a pitch-black room; a wider field of views so that up to six players play a Kinect game at once; and “improved hand-pose recognition, which will counteract any of the issues that gamers had with the original Kinect.
Check out two videos of the new Kinect tech in action below.