The Supposed Technological Versatility of the Microsoft Kinect
Peripheral hardware is always a tricky business in the video game industry. Generally bonus accessories meant to augment the overall experience of a console or game, occasionally you have one that attempts to make a claim to the definitive experience on a console. The bargain bins and trashcans are littered with failed executions at these claims, but it doesn’t stop the industry from trying to innovate in new and peculiar ways. Success stories and failure stories, but among all of it, Microsoft may have had one of the highest profile releases to straddle the line between both. It was on this day in 2010 that Microsoft released the Kinect, intent on revolutionizing motion-controlled gaming and user/technology interface.
Microsoft first demoed Kinect at E3 in 2009 under the name “Project Natal.” The idea was to present Xbox 360 users and development studios with a 3D motion-sensing camera and audio software that would allow them to play and create games and interface with the console via recognizable gestures and vocal commands. The technology would use a depth sensor alongside an RGB Camera to obtain 3D motion capture and facial recognition. In a time when the Nintendo Wii had caught on and Sony was already working on their own motion project with the PlayStation Move, this was a significant attempt by Microsoft to not just join the trend, but move the technology forward significantly.
The original Kinect would use a laser grid and sensor tracking to distinguish between different players and people in the background, allowing for the system to recognize multiple entities within its depth of vision and allow up to two players to use it actively at once. Many speculators wondered whether the Kinect would be able to run on the then-current Xbox 360 hardware and though Microsoft denied the idea of a new console at the time with a claim that the Kinect only used up a single-digit ratio of the 360’s processing power, they would indeed eventually create a new “Kinect ready” Xbox 360 S with new ports to make set of the Kinect simple.
The Kinect was somewhat of a hard sell for consumers upon release at $149.99 retail, 3/4 the price of a regular Xbox 360 at $199.99 at the time of its release. Nonetheless, the accessory did well, selling over eight million units in its first two months and taking the Guinness Book World Record for “fastest selling consumer electronics device.” It brought about new innovation that would allow for games like Dance Central, Gunstringer, and Fruit Ninja, but the greater application of the Kinect would come further down the line when Microsoft released a software development kit to develop Kinect apps for the Windows operating system.
The Kinect has seen varying degrees of video game support in both its Xbox 360 and Xbox One iterations since its release, but it still stands as one of those most versatile accessories to ever come to console. With the addition of Microsoft’s Cortana system and various other software updates, the Kinect has indeed revolutionized the Microsoft user interface on varying levels since its initial release. Moreover, the opportunities it provides for applications outside of gaming, including contribution to medical and security systems, have made the Kinect a far bigger innovation in technology than simply a new kind of entertainment.