Microsoft’s New Kinect: Much More Than Mere Motion Control

Microsoft’s New Kinect: Much More Than Mere Motion Control

I hope you like motion control, because it ain’t going anywhere. Microsoft just announced its new Kinect, and although it’s not literally wired into the Xbox One, it will be coming with every Xbox One sold. But this time Kinect is less about about gaming and more about media than ever.

Kinect has always had voice control built in, but now Microsoft is pressing it harder than ever. Virtually everything on the Xbox One can be controlled by voice, thanks to the Kinect’s ears. Its eyes factor in too, letting users perform subtle hand gestures while sitting down (!!!) to control the interface without any controller in sight.

Kinect also behaves as the control hub for your whole Xbox One experience. When you sit down on the couch with your controller in your hand, Kinect will take note and turn your system on for you. Creepy but awesome.

Kinect’s innards are beefier than ever. Its new sensors can not only pick up on all your joints and model your body, extrapolating things like your balance, and even figuring out your heartbeat from just staring at you. That last bit alone means its camera must be damned serious. It can pick up video at 60fps, and this time it’s outfitted with a modulated IR beam for spacial mapping, which should do away with the pesky lighting issues that plagued the original Kinect. The new Kinect should work in complete darkness, if you’re into that.

From a practical perspective the new Kinect will doubtlessly be able to see little things, like faces and open versus closed hands, instead of guessing along with what vague body-shapes it can make out. And it will have to if it wants to go toe-to-toe with the Playstation 4 Eye, which boasts 1280×800, Kinect-style body tracking, an 85-degree field of view, and works with accessories (including the DualShock 4 controller) as well as on its own.

All that said, the first Kinect looked pretty damned impressive when it was first shown off, and then it turned out to be not nearly as awesome (or functional) in the wild. Microsoft has doubtlessly learned a lot from the experience though, and they’re betting big big big on their whole “you are the controller thing” so hopefully that means some genuinely awesome motion control gaming this time around. And, even if not, the comprehensive media control makes Kinect way more than some peripheral. Not like you’ve got a choice of whether or not you want one anyway.

Update: Microsoft claims that the new Kinect is so sensitive that it can see the slightest movement of your wrists and fingers, the tension of your muscles, and, amazingly enough, even your heartbeat.

So next time you exercise in front of the TV, it will be able to tell how much you are really working out. But I bet there will be a lot more to this feature, like a first-person shooter reading your heartbeat and muscle tension to spook you at the right moment. And kill you for real.