Kinect for Xbox One
|Generation||Seventh and eighth generation eras|
|Units sold||24 million (as of February 12, 2013)|
|Camera||640×480 pixels @ 30 Hz (RGB camera)
640×480 pixels @ 30 Hz (IR depth-finding camera)
|Connectivity||USB 2.0 (type-A for original model; proprietary for Xbox 360 S)|
Microsoft Windows (Windows 7 onwards)
|Predecessor||Xbox Live Vision|
|Kinect for Xbox 360|
Kinect (codenamed in development as Project Natal) is a line of motion sensing input devices by Microsoft for Xbox 360 and Xbox One video game consoles and Windows PCs. Based around a webcam-style add-on peripheral, it enables users to control and interact with their console/computer without the need for a game controller, through a natural user interface using gestures and spoken commands. The first-generation Kinect was first introduced in November 2010 in an attempt to broaden Xbox 360's audience beyond its typical gamer base. A version for Windows was released on February 1, 2012. Kinect competes with several motion controllers on other home consoles, such as Wii Remote Plus for Wii and Wii U, PlayStation Move/PlayStation Eye for PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Camera for PlayStation 4.
Microsoft released the Kinect software development kit for Windows 7 on June 16, 2011. This SDK was meant to allow developers to write Kinecting apps in C++/CLI, C#, or Visual Basic .NET.
Kinect builds on software technology developed internally by Rare, a subsidiary of Microsoft Game Studios owned by Microsoft, and on range camera technology by Israeli developer PrimeSense, which developed a system that can interpret specific gestures, making completely hands-free control of electronic devices possible by using an infrared projector and camera and a special microchip to track the movement of objects and individuals in three dimensions. This 3D scanner system called Light Coding employs a variant of image-based 3D reconstruction.
Kinect sensor is a horizontal bar connected to a small base with a motorized pivot and is designed to be positioned lengthwise above or below the video display. The device features an "RGB camera, depth sensor and multi-array microphone running proprietary software", which provide full-body 3D motion capture, facial recognition and voice recognition capabilities. At launch, voice recognition was only made available in Japan, United Kingdom, Canada and United States. Mainland Europe received the feature later in spring 2011. Currently voice recognition is supported in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States. Kinect sensor's microphone array enables Xbox 360 to conduct acoustic source localization and ambient noise suppression, allowing for things such as headset-free party chat over Xbox Live.
The depth sensor consists of an infrared laser projector combined with a monochrome CMOS sensor, which captures video data in 3D under any ambient light conditions. The sensing range of the depth sensor is adjustable, and Kinect software is capable of automatically calibrating the sensor based on gameplay and the player's physical environment, accommodating for the presence of furniture or other obstacles.
Described by Microsoft personnel as the primary innovation of Kinect, the software technology enables advanced gesture recognition, facial recognition and voice recognition. According to information supplied to retailers, Kinect is capable of simultaneously tracking up to six people, including two active players for motion analysis with a feature extraction of 20 joints per player. However, PrimeSense has stated that the number of people the device can "see" (but not process as players) is only limited by how many will fit in the field-of-view of the camera.
Reverse engineering has determined that the Kinect's various sensors output video at a frame rate of ~9 Hz to 30 Hz depending on resolution. The default RGB video stream uses 8-bit VGA resolution (640 × 480 pixels) with a Bayer color filter, but the hardware is capable of resolutions up to 1280x1024 (at a lower frame rate) and other colour formats such as UYVY. The monochrome depth sensing video stream is in VGA resolution (640 × 480 pixels) with 11-bit depth, which provides 2,048 levels of sensitivity. The Kinect can also stream the view from its IR camera directly (i.e.: before it has been converted into a depth map) as 640x480 video, or 1280x1024 at a lower frame rate. The Kinect sensor has a practical ranging limit of 1.2–3.5 m (3.9–11.5 ft) distance when used with the Xbox software. The area required to play Kinect is roughly 6 m2, although the sensor can maintain tracking through an extended range of approximately 0.7–6 m (2.3–19.7 ft). The sensor has an angular field of view of 57° horizontally and 43° vertically, while the motorized pivot is capable of tilting the sensor up to 27° either up or down. The horizontal field of the Kinect sensor at the minimum viewing distance of ~0.8 m (2.6 ft) is therefore ~87 cm (34 in), and the vertical field is ~63 cm (25 in), resulting in a resolution of just over 1.3 mm (0.051 in) per pixel. The microphone array features four microphone capsules and operates with each channel processing 16-bit audio at a sampling rate of 16 kHz.
Because the Kinect sensor's motorized tilt mechanism requires more power than the Xbox 360's USB ports can supply, the device makes use of a proprietary connector combining USB communication with additional power. Redesigned Xbox 360 S models include a special AUX port for accommodating the connector, while older models require a special power supply cable (included with the sensor) that splits the connection into separate USB and power connections; power is supplied from the mains by way of an AC adapter.
Kinect was first announced on June 1, 2009 at E3 2009 under the code name "Project Natal". Following in Microsoft's tradition of using cities as code names, "Project Natal" was named after the Brazilian city of Natal as a tribute to the country by Brazilian-born Microsoft director Alex Kipman, who incubated the project. The name Natal was also chosen because the word natal means "of or relating to birth", reflecting Microsoft's view of the project as "the birth of the next generation of home entertainment".
Three demos were shown to showcase Kinect when it was revealed at Microsoft's E3 2009 Media Briefing: Ricochet, Paint Party and Milo & Kate. A demo based on Burnout Paradise was also shown outside of Microsoft's media briefing. The skeletal mapping technology shown at E3 2009 was capable of simultaneously tracking four people, with a feature extraction of 48 skeletal points on a human body at 30 Hz.
It was rumored that the launch of Project Natal would be accompanied with the release of a new Xbox 360 console (as either a new retail configuration, a significant design revision and/or a modest hardware upgrade). Microsoft dismissed the reports in public and repeatedly emphasized that Project Natal would be fully compatible with all Xbox 360 consoles. Microsoft indicated that the company considers it to be a significant initiative, as fundamental to Xbox brand as Xbox Live, and with a launch akin to that of a new Xbox console platform. Kinect was even referred to as a "new Xbox" by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at a speech for Executives' Club of Chicago. When asked if the introduction will extend the time before the next-generation console platform is launched (historically about 5 years between platforms), Microsoft corporate vice president Shane Kim reaffirmed that the company believes that the life cycle of Xbox 360 will last through 2015 (10 years).
During Kinect's development, project team members experimentally adapted numerous games to Kinect-based control schemes to help evaluate usability. Among these games were Beautiful Katamari and Space Invaders Extreme, which were demonstrated at Tokyo Game Show in September 2009. According to creative director Kudo Tsunoda, adding Kinect-based control to pre-existing games would involve significant code alterations, making it unlikely for Kinect features to be added through software updates.
Although the sensor unit was originally planned to contain a microprocessor that would perform operations such as the system's skeletal mapping, it was revealed in January 2010 that the sensor would no longer feature a dedicated processor. Instead, processing would be handled by one of the processor cores of Xbox 360's Xenon CPU. According to Alex Kipman, Kinect system consumes about 10-15% of Xbox 360's computing resources. However, in November, Alex Kipman made a statement that "the new motion control tech now only uses a single-digit percentage of Xbox 360's processing power, down from the previously stated 10 to 15 percent." A number of observers commented that the computational load required for Kinect makes the addition of Kinect functionality to pre-existing games through software updates even less likely, with concepts specific to Kinect more likely to be the focus for developers using the platform.
On March 25, Microsoft sent out a save the date flier for an event called the "World Premiere 'Project Natal' for Xbox 360 Experience" at E3 2010. The event took place on the evening of Sunday, June 13, 2010 at Galen Center and featured a performance by Cirque du Soleil. It was announced that the system would officially be called Kinect, a portmanteau of the words "kinetic" and "connect", which describe key aspects of the initiative. Microsoft also announced that the North American launch date for Kinect will be November 4, 2010. Despite previous statements dismissing speculation of a new Xbox 360 to accompany the launch of the new control system, Microsoft announced at E3 2010 that it was introducing a redesigned Xbox 360, complete with a connector port ready for Kinect. In addition, on July 20, 2010, Microsoft announced a Kinect bundle with a redesigned Xbox 360, to be available with Kinect launch.
On June 16, 2011, Microsoft announced its official release of its SDK for non-commercial use. On July 21, 2011, Microsoft announced that the first ever white Kinect sensor would be available as part of "Xbox 360 Limited Edition Kinect Star Wars Bundle", which also includes custom a Star Wars-themed console and controller, and copies of Kinect Adventures and Star Wars Kinect. Previously, all Kinect sensors had been glossy black.
On October 31, 2011, Microsoft announced launching of the commercial version of Kinect for Windows program with release of SDK to companies. David Dennis, Product Manager at Microsoft, said, "There are hundreds of organizations we are working with to help them determine what's possible with the tech".
On February 1, 2012, Microsoft released the commercial version of Kinect for Windows SDK and told that more than 300 companies from over 25 countries are working on Kinect-ready apps.
Microsoft had an advertising budget of US$500 million for the launch of Kinect, a larger sum than the investment at launch of Xbox console. The marketing campaign You Are the Controller, aiming to reach new audiences, included advertisements on Kellogg's cereal boxes and Pepsi bottles, commercials during shows such as Dancing with the Stars and Glee as well as print ads in various magazines such as People and InStyle.
On October 19, Microsoft advertised Kinect on The Oprah Winfrey Show by giving free Xbox 360 consoles and Kinect sensors to the people in the audience. Two weeks later, Kinect bundles with Xbox 360 consoles were also given away to the audience of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. On October 23, Microsoft held a pre-launch party for Kinect in Beverly Hills. The party was hosted by Ashley Tisdale and was attended by soccer star David Beckham and his three sons, Cruz, Brooklyn, and Romeo. Guests were treated to sessions with Dance Central and Kinect Adventures, followed by Tisdale having a Kinect voice chat with Nick Cannon. Between November 1 and 28, Burger King gave away a free Kinect bundle "every 15 minutes".
A major event was organized on November 3 in Times Square, where singer Ne-Yo performed with hundreds of dancers in anticipation of Kinect's midnight launch. During the festivities, Microsoft gave away T-shirts and Kinect games.
Kinect was launched in North America on November 4, 2010, in Europe on November 10, 2010, in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore on November 18, 2010, and in Japan on November 20, 2010. Purchase options for the sensor peripheral include a bundle with the game Kinect Adventures and console bundles with either a 4 GB or 250 GB Xbox 360 console and Kinect Adventures.
On February 21, 2011 Microsoft announced that it would release a non-commercial Kinect software development kit (SDK) for Windows in spring 2011, which was released for Windows 7 on June 16, 2011 in 12 countries. The SDK includes Windows 7 compatible PC drivers for Kinect device. It provides Kinect capabilities to developers to build applications with C++, C#, or Visual Basic by using Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 and includes following features:
In March 2012, Craig Eisler, the general manager of Kinect for Windows said that almost 350 companies are working with Microsoft on custom Kinect applications for Windows.
In March 2012, Microsoft announced that next version of Kinect for Windows SDK would be available in May 2012. Kinect for Windows 1.5 was released on May 21, 2012. It adds new features, support for many new languages and debut in 19 more countries.
Kinect for Windows SDK for the first-generation sensor was updated a few more times, with version 1.6 released October 8, 2012, version 1.7 released March 18, 2013, and version 1.8 released September 17, 2013.
The second-generation Kinect for Windows, based on the same core technology as Kinect for Xbox One, including a new sensor, was first released in 2014.
Requiring at least 190 MB of available storage space, Kinect system software allows users to operate Xbox 360 Dashboard console user interface through voice commands and hand gestures. Techniques such as voice recognition and facial recognition are employed to automatically identify users. Among the applications for Kinect is Video Kinect, which enables voice chat or video chat with other Xbox 360 users or users of Windows Live Messenger. The application can use Kinect's tracking functionality and Kinect sensor's motorized pivot to keep users in frame even as they move around. Other applications with Kinect support include ESPN, Zune Marketplace, Netflix, Hulu Plus and Last.fm. Microsoft later confirmed that all forthcoming applications would require them to have Kinect functionality for certification.
Games that require Kinect have a purple sticker on them with a white silhouette of Kinect sensor and "Requires Kinect Sensor" underneath in white text, and also come in purple packaging. Games that have optional Kinect support (meaning that Kinect is not necessary to play the game or that there are optional Kinect minigames included) feature a standard green Xbox 360 case with a purple bar underneath the header, a silhouette of Kinect sensor and "Better with Kinect Sensor" next to it in white text.
Kinect launched on November 4, 2010 with 17 titles. Third-party publishers of available and announced Kinect games include, among others, Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, LucasArts, THQ, Activision, Konami, Sega, Capcom, Namco Bandai and MTV Games. Along with retail games, there are also select Xbox Live Arcade that exclusively use Kinect peripheral.
At E3 2011, Microsoft announced Kinect Fun Labs: a collection of various gadgets and minigames that are accessible from Xbox 360 Dashboard. These gadgets includes Build A Buddy, Air Band, Kinect Googly Eyes, Kinect Me, Bobblehead, Kinect Sparkler, Junk Fu and Avatar Kinect.
In November 2010, Adafruit Industries offered a bounty for an open-source driver for Kinect. Microsoft initially voiced its disapproval of the bounty, stating that it "does not condone the modification of its products" and that it had "built in numerous hardware and software safeguards designed to reduce the chances of product tampering". This reaction, however, was caused by a misunderstanding within Microsoft, and the company later clarified its position, claiming that while it does not condone hacking of either the physical device or the console, the USB connection was left open by design.
|“||The first thing to talk about is, Kinect was not actually hacked. Hacking would mean that someone got to our algorithms that sit inside of the Xbox and was able to actually use them, which hasn't happened. Or, it means that you put a device between the sensor and the Xbox for means of cheating, which also has not happened. That's what we call hacking, and that's what we have put a ton of work and effort to make sure doesn't actually occur. What has happened is someone wrote an open-source driver for PCs that essentially opens the USB connection, which we didn't protect, by design, and reads the inputs from the sensor. The sensor, again, as I talked earlier, has eyes and ears, and that's a whole bunch of noise that someone needs to take and turn into signal.||”|
—Microsoft's Alex Kipman speaking formally on NPR's Science Friday
On November 10, Adafruit announced Héctor Martín as the winner, who had produced a Linux driver that allows the use of both the RGB camera and depth sensitivity functions of the device. It was later revealed that Johnny Lee, a core member of Microsoft's Kinect development team, had secretly approached Adafruit with the idea of a driver development contest and had personally financed it.
In December 2010, PrimeSense, whose depth sensing reference design Kinect is based on, released their own open source drivers along with motion tracking middleware called NITE. PrimeSense later announced that it had teamed up with Asus to develop a PC-compatible device similar to Kinect for Chinese markets, called the Wavi Xtion. The product was released in October 2011.
OpenNI is an open-source software framework that is able to read sensor data from Kinect, among other natural user interface sensors.
Alexandre Alahi from EPFL presented a video surveillance system that combines multiple Kinect devices to track groups of people even in complete darkness. Companies So touch and Evoluce have developed presentation software for Kinect that can be controlled by hand gestures; among its features is a multi-touch zoom mode. In December 2010, the free public beta of HTPC software KinEmote was launched; it allows navigation of Boxee and XBMC menus using a Kinect sensor. Soroush Falahati wrote an application that can be used to create stereoscopic 3D images with a Kinect sensor.
For a limited time in May 2011, a Topshop store in Moscow set up a Kinect kiosk that could overlay a collection of dresses onto the live video feed of customers. Through automatic tracking, position and rotation of the virtual dress were updated even as customers turned around to see the back of the outfit.
Kinect also shows compelling potential for use in medicine. Researchers at the University of Minnesota have used Kinect to measure a range of disorder symptoms in children, creating new ways of objective evaluation to detect such conditions as autism, attention-deficit disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Several groups have reported using Kinect for intraoperative, review of medical imaging, allowing the surgeon to access the information without contamination. This technique is already in use at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, where doctors use it to guide imaging during cancer surgery. At least one company, GestSure Technologies, is pursuing the commercialization of such a system.
Another recent application of Kinect is for multi-touch displays. A Seattle-based company that graduated from Microsoft's Kinect Accelerator, Ubi Interactive, has developed software for the Kinect intended to work with projectors to allow touchscreen-like capabilities on various surfaces.
Xbox One consoles ship with an updated version of Kinect; the new Kinect uses a wide-angle time-of-flight camera, and processes 2 gigabits of data per second to read its environment. The new Kinect has greater accuracy with three times the fidelity over its predecessor and can track without visible light by using an active IR sensor. It has a 60% wider field of vision that can detect a user up to 3 feet from the sensor, compared to six feet for the original Kinect, and can track up to 6 skeletons at once. It can also detect a player's heart rate, facial expression, the position and orientation of 25 individual joints (including thumbs), the weight put on each limb, speed of player movements, and track gestures performed with a standard controller. Kinect's microphone is used to provide voice commands for actions such as navigation, starting games, and waking the console from sleep mode.
All Xbox One consoles were initially shipped with the Kinect sensor included—a holdover from a previously-announced, but retracted mandate requiring Kinect to be plugged into the console at all times for it to function. In June 2014, bundles without Kinect were made available, along with an updated Xbox One SDK allowing game developers to explicitly disable Kinect skeletal tracking, freeing up system resources that were previously reserved for Kinect even if it was disabled or unplugged.
Upon its release, the Kinect garnered positive opinions from reviewers and critics. IGN gave the device 7.5 out of 10, saying that "Kinect can be a tremendous amount of fun for casual players, and the creative, controller-free concept is undeniably appealing", though adding that for "$149.99, a motion-tracking camera add-on for Xbox 360 is a tough sell, especially considering that the entry level variation of Xbox 360 itself is only $199.99". Game Informer rated Kinect 8 out of 10, praising the technology but noting that the experience takes a while to get used to and that the spatial requirement may pose a barrier. Computer and Video Games called the device a technological gem and applauded the gesture and voice controls, while criticizing the launch lineup and Kinect Hub.
CNET's review pointed out how Kinect keeps players active with its full-body motion sensing but criticized the learning curve, the additional power supply needed for older Xbox 360 consoles and the space requirements. Engadget, too, listed the large space requirements as a negative, along with Kinect's launch lineup and the slowness of the hand gesture UI. The review praised the system's powerful technology and the potential of its yoga and dance games. Kotaku considered the device revolutionary upon first use but noted that games were sometimes unable to recognize gestures or had slow responses, concluding that Kinect is "not must-own yet, more like must-eventually own." TechRadar praised the voice control and saw a great deal of potential in the device whose lag and space requirements were identified as issues. Gizmodo also noted Kinect's potential and expressed curiosity in how more mainstream titles would utilize the technology. Ars Technica's review expressed concern that the core feature of Kinect, its lack of a controller, would hamper development of games beyond those that have either stationary players or control the player's movement automatically.
The mainstream press also reviewed Kinect. USA Today compared it to the futuristic control scheme seen in Minority Report, stating that "playing games feels great" and giving the device 3.5 out of 4 stars. David Pogue from The New York Times predicted you will feel a "crazy, magical, omigosh rush the first time you try the Kinect [sic]." Despite calling the motion tracking less precise than Wii's implementation, Pogue concluded that "Kinect’s astonishing technology creates a completely new activity that’s social, age-spanning and even athletic." The Globe and Mail titled Kinect as setting a "new standard for motion control." The slight input lag between making a physical movement and Kinect registering it was not considered a major issue with most games, and the review called Kinect "a good and innovative product," rating it 3.5 out of 4 stars.
Although featuring improved performance over the original Kinect, its successor has been subject to mixed responses. It has been praised for its wide angle, its fast response time and high quality camera. However, the Kinect's inability to understand some accents in English was criticized. Furthermore, controversies surround Microsoft's intentional tying of the sensor with the Xbox One console despite the initial requirements for the sensor being plugged in at all times having been revised since its initial announcement. There have also been a number of concerns regarding privacy. In May 2014, Microsoft announced that it would offer an Xbox One console without Kinect beginning June 9 alongside the original package; a separate Kinect sensor will be made available at a later date for users who wish to add it later.
24 million units of Kinect had been shipped by February 2013. Having sold 8 million units in its first 60 days on the market, Kinect has claimed the Guinness World Record of being the "fastest selling consumer electronics device". According to Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter, Kinect bundles accounted for about half of all Xbox 360 console sales in December 2010 and for more than two-thirds in February 2011. More than 750,000 Kinect units were sold during the week of Black Friday 2011.
It will hit the shelves on 10 November, five days after the US.
The effort aims to attract a broader audience to Microsoft's console. Most of the 30 million Xbox 360s sold since November 2005 have been snapped up by avid young males drawn to complex shooter or adventure games such as Halo and Modern Warfare or R.P.Gs
The companies are doing a lot of great work with the cameras. But the magic is in the software. It’s a combination of partners and our own software.
We actually built a software platform that was what we wanted to have as content creators. And then [asked], 'OK, are there hardware solutions out there that plug in?' But the amount of software and the quality of software are really the innovation in Natal.
This information is based on specifications supplied by manufacturers and should be used for guidance only.
Array of 4 microphones supporting single speaker voice recognition
Essentially we do a 3D body scan of you. We graph 48 joints in your body and then those 48 joints are tracked in real-time, at 30 frames per second. So several for your head, shoulders, elbows, hands, feet...
November 2010 release, 5m units global ship, 14 games, and super-low sub-£50 price [...] Microsoft is planning to manufacture 5m units for day one release, with a mix of console and camera plus solus SKUs expected. [...] The device should cost under £100,00 when sold solo. The somewhat confirmed price is stated to be at 150$ (USD)when sold alone this is 50$ higher than the original 99$ projected price. [...] Another even says the camera could even retail for just £30.
And you know, I think they said they were going to ship Natal with every Xbox when they actually launch the thing, so everybody will have one.
The companies are doing a lot of great work with the cameras. But the magic is in the software. It’s a combination of partners and our own software.
I am talking about the Global Leaders luncheon with Steve Ballmer yesterday in Chicago, during which the executive announced 'a new Xbox for 2010.' [...] I triple-checked with a few friends who were sitting in the audience as well and it seemed pretty clear to them that a new Xbox is coming in 2010, after what Ballmer had said.
I confused the issue with my poorly chosen words. There is no news in my comments. Things are as reported after E3. Sorry.
Since the NES, every five years or so a distinct new wave of technology has washed across the industry, bringing with it new power and functions to a market galvanised by the promise of faster, better, more.
Euro prices are 149.99 Euro for the camera + Kinect Adventures, 299.99 Euro for the 4GB console bundle.