Microsoft originally announced Kinect as Project Natal at E3 few years back. It was an add-on accessory for Xbox 360 that allowed users to enjoy motion sensing games. It went on to become a smash hit by becoming the fastest selling electronic accessory ever. Later, Microsoft released Kinect for Windows to allow community and other developers take advantage of this amazing sensor and the Kinect SDK for purposes other than gaming. With Xbox One, Microsoft announced Kinect v2 with greatly improved accuracy and speed than the first gen product. At first, it was bundled with Xbox One and later became an add-on that can be purchased later. Yesterday, Microsoft released the Kinect for Windows v2 sensor becomes available for all developers to preorder in advance of its SDK beta. What about the future?
Microsoft revealed that to make Kinect work for everybody, in their natural environment, hundreds of people are working everyday to improve it. At any given time, more than 300 Xbox developer kits are testing up to 2 million frames of video gathered from thousands of home visits, motion-capture sessions and in-house experiments.
“Bringing Kinect to Xbox One to deliver vision and hearing capability was just the start of a long journey and evolution of Natural User Interaction (NUI),” says Scott Evans, partner group program manager for Kinect. NUI breaks down the barriers between human and machine, so that interacting is as natural as talking to another person or conveying intention through non-verbal nuances.
Vince Ortado’s team at Microsoft processes up to 180,000 video clips an hour, running machine learning algorithms that improve Kinect’s software. More than 300 Xbox developer kits operate 24-7, divided into groups testing anything from hand gestures to identity.
It’s important to have all these millions of frames of video go through as fast as possible, as the teams working on Kinect can only act after they’ve received the results. And they’re on a schedule to act at a brisk pace with monthly software releases that give users an experience that continuously improves.
They are hoping that Kinect technology will move beyond gaming,
Right now, people can experience Kinect through Xbox One: playing games, choosing movies and using Skype. Or they might be out and about and interact with a Kinect for Windows sensor as part of a retail experience, or in other spaces such as museums, hotels or corporate offices. Or they may happen upon interactive animation experiences such as those Freak’n Genius has staged, that put people on stage dancing as a company mascot. The availability of preorders on Thursday will allow even more Kinect for Windows v2 sensors to get into the hands of developers and enable a wider variety of user scenarios.
As for the teams of people who continue working to improve Kinect, Kinect’s Evans says, “It’s all about making Kinect work whether or not you have a puffy couch or a ficus in your living room that might look like a person. Being able to always get it right and understand who you are in your natural environment, in every living room with every person. That’s the investment we make in doing the machine learning. It’s to get it right for everybody.”
Read the whole story from Microsoft here. It is really worth a read.