Like a spooky ghost rising up from the grave on All Hallows’ Eve, Microsoft’s Kinect accessory is back from the dead — again. Comcast-owned European pay TV company Sky rolled out an accessory to be paired with its new Glass TVs on Thursday that looks suspiciously like the doomed spatial camera Microsoft has been trying to foist on Xbox users for years.
During a launch event in London announcing its new broadband-powered TV set, “Sky Glass,” Sky revealed that it had partnered with Microsoft on a 4K camera accessory that would include motion controls, gesture support, and social sharing features. For anyone who remembers the ill-fated Kinect — Microsoft’s big connected entertainment bet to take over your living room with a device that could seamlessly play games, control your TV, and run apps — this looks a lot like that.
“Working with Microsoft we’re also building a fantastic feature that lets us watch TV together even if we’re miles apart,” Fraser Stirling, Sky’s chief product officer, said at the event. “It syncs your TV with other households, with integrated video and chat on-screen, and you can choose content from the biggest channels — including Premier League matches, movies, and all your favourite entertainment.”
The social gaming experience that Sky and Microsoft have dreamed up will reportedly include games specifically designed to support the new camera, including the immensely popular Fruit Ninja and a Paw Patrol-branded offering. In addition to supporting social apps like Zoom, the new camera will also make good on Microsoft’s longtime dream of enabling a simultaneous viewing experience where people can play games or watch TV channels in sync with their friends, seeing their reactions in real time.
“Pick your opponent, either at home or another household and play through your body movement or gesture control,” Stirling said. “Family games are never going to be the same again.”
After initially launching the Kinect as an Xbox 360 accessory in 2010 as a way to incorporate spatial and gesture sensors into gaming, Microsoft later tried to bundle it with the Xbox One, to disastrous results. But it’s clear that for Microsoft, the dream of depth-sensing, social gaming never really died — and today, Sky has given that dream has been given a second (third?) chance at life. May the Kinect fare better in this lifetime than it has in the past, and if not, we’ll see it in the next realm.