The Xbox One may have hogged the spotlight, but the next-gen console wasn’t the only piece of new hardware Microsoft unveiled this past week. The company also announced a next generation version of its Kinect for Windows sensor. Built around the same set of technologies as the Xbox One’s new Kinect sensor, the new Kinect for Windows sensor and software development kit (SDK) are aimed more at businesses and organizations than individual consumers.
Like it’s console-centric counterpart, the updated Kinect for Windows sensor will offer a range of improvements over its predecessor. These include a 1080p color camera replacing the original device’s VGA sensor. Along with the higher resolution, the new sensor is able to track precise motions and details, down to the turn of a wrist or wrinkles in clothing. This is in part thanks to “time-of-flight” technology that measures the time it takes individual photons to bounce off an object or person.
The device also boasts a new noise-isolating multi-microphone array that Microsoft claims can filter out ambient sounds to enable it to understand commands spoken in a natural speaking voice, even in crowded rooms.
Building on the previous color, depth and audio sensors, Microsoft has added new active infrared (IR) capabilities that allow the device to work in just about any lighting conditions, including complete darkness. The IR camera can even detect blood flow beneath the skin, which is something that has obvious health monitoring potential.
The sensor’s higher image fidelity also enables improved skeletal tracking of up to six skeletons at once (the current Kinect only tracks two) and allows it to track more points on the human body, right down to the tips of hands and thumbs. Microsoft expects the new sensor’s more accurate skeletal tacking to open up the device to a wider range of potential uses, such as rehabilitation and fitness applications, or use in retail environments where multiple users can interact with the system at once.
One of the biggest limitations of the current Kinect is its limited field of view that means users have to stand a couple of meters away from the sensor. The new unit boasts an expanded field of view that allows users to get much closer so it can be used in smaller rooms.
Microsoft will be showcasing the new Kinect for Windows sensor’s capabilities at BUILD 2013 in June, although the device is not set to be released until 2014. Pricing has not been announced.