We’re mere days away from the launch of the Xbox Series X and S consoles. One of the big peripheral hardware changes of this generation is the Kinect being dropped. And out of respect it’s worth reminding ourselves of one of its key uses outside of gaming – ghost hunting.
Kinect Ghost Hunting
Some of you may remember the Xbox Kinect being used as a plot device for Paranormal Activity 4. In addition to capturing a small creepy child walking around at night, it picked up a ghost following him around.
While silly in a movie context, it points to the basic premise of how the Xbox Kinect is used for ghost hunting in the real world.
The Kinect captures player movements with RGB cameras and infrared projectors, essentially turning a person’s body into a controller. The motion sensing and facial recognition helped the Kinect recognise bodies in 3D.
It’s a simplified explanation of how the Kinect works, but the bottom line is that the Kinect was supposed to only recognise people when they entered the play area.
But because nothing is perfect, the Kinect was known to pick up second players who aren’t actually there. While some might argue this is simply a glitch or the result of an imperfect alforithm, others believe the device could be picking up ghosts.
Kinect Ghost Cameras
Due to this belief, the Kinect found a second life as a paranormal detection device. It’s believed that the Kinect cameras can detect and display the supposed energy exuded by ghosts.
Locally, one such device has been used as the Quarantine Station in Sydney by ghost hunter Graham Lewis. Lewis has combined a the Kinect camera with a hard drive recorder and screen.
In an interview with ABC Illawarra in 2017 (which I also make an appearance in), Lewis cited the weird sensor pick ups as a reason he adopted the tech.
“Xbox gaming users were reporting curious incidents in which the sensor camera, which tracks human movement for interactive games, was often detecting second players in the game when there was no one else in the room,” he said to the ABC.
Lewis has also captured Kinect footage of what he believes to be the ghost of a small child. Earlier sections of the video clearly depict people who were there at the time, but the weirdness starts from around the 7:30 mark.
It’s spooky for sure but it’s difficult to be able to get heartily behind the Xbox Kinect being able to detect ghosts when there’s no way to do a controlled test. You can’t exactly bring a ghost into a lab environment.
As I said to the ABC all those years ago, even if ghosts are real, we don’t know what detectable elements they actually produce. So we don’t definitively know what to look out for with the Kinect or any other ghost hunting equipment.
As such, the practice is based on assumptions and the results can’t be scientifically verified. And considering the Kinect was also known to have motion sensor drop outs, false positives and other relatively normal tech issues, it’s hard to trust it being a full proof spirit detector.
That being said, I adore that Kinects are used in this way and secretly hope the results are real.
Ghosts may be the end of the road for the Kinect
If you cast your mind back to when the original Xbox One was released, the second generation Kinect was included by default. While the tech was pretty cool, it also blew out the price tag significantly. This allowed the PS4 to undercut Xbox by a huge margin.
It took roughly a year for the Xbox One to then be released sans-Kinect and at a more palatable price point.
It’s unlikely well see a new generation of Kinects in the Xbox Series X/S life cycle. After all, Xbox recently announced that Kinect games will not be compatible with the new consoles.
Interest just doesn’t seem to be there anymore. The only particularly popular game I’m curious about is Just Dance. I wonder if it will be supported by the new Xbox consoles and if so, how?
So if this truly is the death of the Kinect, it brings me some joy that in the ghost hunting community it has an afterlife.