The Xbox One was just unveiled at Microsoft’s Redmond campus and, true to multiple reports that circulated before the official reveal, the new console will indeed come with a Kinect.
And what a Kinect it is! The rumors of a vastly improved Kinect sensor array were right on the money — this next-generation model is capable of tracking motions as minute as wrist rotations, and Microsoft’s Marc Whitten said the new Kinect would even be able to read users’ heartbeats when they’re exercising or when players shift their weight. The new Kinect’s main camera is capable of recording 1080P RGB video at 30 frames per second (for a bit of perspective, the original model could only capture VGA video). Perhaps most importantly, the Xbox One will be capable of chewing on all the data the newfangled Kinect (no one has dropped an official name for the thing yet) captures at a rate of about 2GB of per second, which is probably partially why the onstage demos looked so brisk.
We got a brief glimpse of the new Kinect in action when Microsoft SVP Yusuf Mehdi called out commands and used minute hand gestures to manipulate content on the Xbox One — commands like “Xbox on” and “go to video” allow for near-instantaneous switching between running applications, and the Kinect is apparently also able to differentiate between users based on their voices.
In short, it’s a massive, massive upgrade compared to the venerable original model, which often exhibited issues with basic limb and motion tracking. Granted, demos we saw today were carefully staged, but the Kinect reacted to Mehdi’s commands and inputs without a hint of technical hesitation — if the new Kinect works in the living room as well as it did onstage, Microsoft may really have something here. And frankly, that’s saying something considering Microsoft managed to move 10 million of the original camera/sensor arrays between November 2010 and March 2011.