Technology

Microsoft No More Manufacturers Kinect, But It’s Not Dead Yet

After years of suspense of whether Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has actually stopped working on Kinect, the company has now confirmed that it is done with the accessory. Originally created for the Xbox 360, the accessory with watershed depth camera and voice recognition microphone will no longer be produced by Microsoft, Kinect creator Alex Kipman and Xbox GM Matthew Lapsen confirmed to Fast Co.Design in an interview.

Xbox One X Microsoft Kinect
Olichel / Pixabay

Painful end for a revolutionary product

Microsoft Kinect was first showcased at E3 2009 with a code-name “Project Natal.” It made its debut E3 2010 with its current brand name and a massive marketing campaign, and then in October it was formally launched.  It was seen as a revolutionary gadget back then.

Since its release in 2010, Microsoft’s depth camera and microphone accessory have sold about 35 million units, according to Fast Co.Design. In 2011, Microsoft Kinect was also named the fastest-selling consumer device, and was applauded even by the Guinness World Records. However, by E3 2015, even Microsoft was not talking about its accessory.

Despite a promising start, the accessory failed to gain traction. Microsoft’s effort to bring Kinect into the mainstream with the Xbox One failed owing to the pricing, absence of major titles and lack of desirable features. One major reason for the failure of Microsoft Kinect among gamers was the absence of big games, like a Call of Duty, or Grand Theft Auto. As a result, the company had to unbundle the Kinect from Xbox One, notes The Verge. The Xbox One S launched in 2015 and the upcoming Xbox One X doesn’t even have a dedicated port for the device.

Is Microsoft Kinect dead?

Many could label Microsoft Kinect as a failed product, but the truth is the hard work behind the accessory has helped the company develop many other products. One big example of this is the HoloLens, which uses many of Kinect technologies for depth-sensing. The Kinect core sensor v4 – and soon to be, v5 – power Microsoft’s augmented reality HoloLens. Also, laptops with Windows Hello cameras are based on Kinect’s tech to recognize people’s faces. Even Windows Mixed Reality headsets use some of Kinect’s technology, according to The Verge.

In addition, the team working on Kinect is contributing to other important technologies such as the Windows Hello biometric facial ID system, a context-aware user interface and the Cortana voice assistant, according to Fast Co.Design.

Microsoft claims Kinect to be a consumer-grade device to come with machine learning at its core. This is true as it has inspired quite a few popular products. In 2010, Apple came up with the Siri voice assistant based on Kinect’s speak-to-control functions. Google also started developing a 3D tracking system, called Project Tango. The project was founded and is still led by Johnny Lee, who worked on the original Kinect.

“Manufacturing for Kinect for Xbox One has ended but it is not the end of the journey for the technology,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. Microsoft will continue to support Kinect for existing customers, but the fate of the ongoing developer’s tool is not clear.