It has probably been some time since you first bust a move or bust an ankle in an exhausting round of Dance Central. The original Kinect may have all but fallen out of memory and many who still use it have certainly felt the pinch of little to no support for the device. This is all about to change in a big way with the announcement of the Azure Kinect Developer Kit. The updated device features completely reworked sensor technology, machine-learning capabilities, Azure integration, and some serious support. This announcement came at MWC 2019 and was part of Microsoft’s one-two punch that also included the bombshell reveal and demo of HoloLens 2. With so many exciting innovations releasing at once, what else does Microsoft have in the works?
The HoloLens 2 wasn’t the only big news from Microsoft out of the MWC 2019 event in Barcelona. Attendees also had the chance to learn about the resurrected Kinect sensor and the timing was no mere coincidence. The technology behind the Kinect is what gives the HoloLens a clear look at the world and now it’s no longer limited to bringing dance or party games to life.
The New Kinect is not a replacement for the old one and is not intended for your Xbox… Sorry. Developers will be able to use the Kinect with our without Azure but then you’d be missing out on part of the magic.
For years, most folks were content with using the original Kinect as a gaming peripheral. It was that funny (not-so-little) box sitting under your screen, and it allowed you to flail around to a beat or see your smiling face in a party game.
Very little attention was given to the Kinect over time and even the Xbox One S required an additional adaptor to even use the Kinect. The truth is, even the original Kinect was hiding some interesting features that pushed some ingenious folks to experiment…
Maybe you prefer to shout at your TV opposed to into your headphones when an online teammate fails an objective. You can easily use the good old Kinect as your own personal gaming P.A. system but there’s also cost-effective skeleton tracking and depth sensing inside. These features caught the attention of an astute few and they proved useful, but the new Azure Kinect takes things to a whole new level, and in a new direction.
Next Gen Mixed Reality
The power of the Kinect has is already on full display as early adopters and the first customers of the device are already putting the new Kinect’s depth sensing and more advanced features to good use. In hospitals, the Kinect is being used to detect patients fall over and it has also found a place in modern warehouses assisting with shipping and inventory duties.
This new Azure Kinect is highly versatile and designed to be used in a multitude of ways. It features a 12MP RGB camera and a 1MP depth camera. The updated RGB camera is capable of recording images up to 3840 x 2160 and the depth camera includes a wide range of resolutions and framerates. A 360° microphone array consisting of no less than of seven microphones is an upgrade over the four found in the original Kinect. Despite the fact it also contains a gyroscope and accelerometer, this newest version is also lighter than its predecessor with a weight of only 440 grams.
As part of Microsoft’s push for the Azure cloud, the Kinect aims to take advantage of a range of computer vision, speech recognition, and machine-learning capabilities with Azure Cognitive Services. A downside of the old Kinect was how a portion of the Xbox’s processing power was required to effectively handle Kinect data. Heavily integrating with Azure appears to be the right path for Microsoft as it shares more about the HoloLens 2.
Under a new era of computing, Microsoft is also releasing new services to support mixed reality applications including Azure Spacial Anchors and Azure Remote Rendering. To deliver a seamless and rich experience, Remote Rendering will produce full-fidelity renders in the cloud and send that data streaming back to the device and all in real time.
Microsoft has high hopes for mixed reality and the sophistication behind the updated Kinect sensor could bring us technological wonders like cashier-less stores and much more. There’s not too much to share other than the fact the new Kinect has been announced. Keep an eye out for new developments.