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- After getting discontinued in the Fall of 2017, the Microsoft Kinect is back, but not for gaming.
- Project Kinect for Azure is a version of the pioneering camera/sensor array, designed for businesses. It integrates with the Microsoft Azure cloud.
- Project Kinect could help build more accurate robots, or facial recognition systems for public spaces.
- But it’s almost definitely not coming to Xbox. Sorry.
The Microsoft Kinect is back! Sort of.
It’s been a long, weird road for the Kinect: First launched in 2010, the futuristic Microsoft Kinect used infrared cameras to let you control Xbox games just by moving your body. Enthusiasm for the Kinect proved to be short-lived, though – after years of sluggish sales and gamer backlash, Microsoft discontinued the Kinect in late 2017.
So it’s a surprise to see Microsoft use its annual Build conference to unveil Project Kinect for Azure – an updated version with a “next-generation depth camera” and a processor suited for artificial intelligence.
As you may have guessed from the name, though, this new Project Kinect almost definitely won’t be coming to Xbox.
Instead, it’s designed to integrate with the Microsoft Azure cloud computing service. The same technology that was once used to control games like “Dance Central” and “Kinect Adventures” will now be used to help provide precision guidance for robotic assembly systems, or to do facial recognition and tracking in an office building or retail store.
- Through Games
In a real way, this has been a long time coming. While the Kinect never really lived up to its promise in video games, it was an instant smash hit with hobbyists and hackers. The Kinect’s cutting-edge depth sensors made it an ideal, low-cost choice for robots and interactive art exhibits.
Furthermore, this is actually Microsoft’s second crack at trying to make the Kinect into a business-focused product. Back in 2011, it pitched the Kinect at businesses, providing tools to integrate it with workplace software. That effort never really took with customers.
This time, though, things have changed a little: One of the hot new trends in enterprise technology is “edge computing,” where smart devices, like this Project Kinect, do a bunch of their own processing before sending data up to the cloud. A smart camera, like this, would fit the bill exactly and give Microsoft a hardware product of its own to offer customers as it pursues the edge computing market.
Still, for gamers, this news could be a little bittersweet. It’s a reminder of what could have been, as a technology created for the Xbox moves on to new markets and greener pastures. It’s worth remembering, though, that much of the Kinect’s technology went into the Microsoft HoloLens, its futuristic “hologram” goggles.
On a final note, there is still a little hope for Xbox gamers. The original Kinect originally came to the Windows PC by way of some clever hacking from dedicated enthusiasts. Maybe, just maybe, this business-focused Project Kinect could come to the Xbox by way of similar efforts.