R.I.P Kinect
Let’s face it, the Kinect was on the chopping block for a while now. Even though the big “M” never officially admitted before, the fact that the Xbox One S, an update to the original Xbox One shipped without the Kinect port was admission enough. Now, Microsoft is finally admitting that the Kinect is dead and buried. According to the Verge, Microsoft has now stopped manufacturing the motion controller.

It wasn’t always this way

When the Kinect debuted in 2010, the Wii had kickstarted the war for motion-controlled gaming. Soon every company wanted a piece of the pie, Sony had launched its motion control accessory known as the PS Move and while it had some positive reviews, Sony never treated it as much more than an add-on. Microsoft, on the other hand, wanted to make Kinect more immersive, it tracked the movement of a player using an RGB Camera combined with an Infrared projector that read the environment around it not as a flat 2D image but as dots in a 3D environment.

Microsoft called this a Natural User Interface or NUI for short. It allowed gamers to interact with a game using just their body to control the action on screen, which was reflected in the original ad campaign for the sensor which touted “You are the controller” . The initial marketing push behind the peripheral and the promise of great third-party support drummed up quite a bit of interest in the Kinect, heck Microsoft even had Rare making games for the accessory. It became the fastest selling consumer device in 2011, even earning a Guinness World Record .

A passionate community of tinkerers

The Kinect like the Wii motion controller before it soon had a passionate community of tinkerers ultimately finding applications in fields as varied as art and medicine. MIT researchers used it for a real-time mapping system, it enabled a stroke victim to send emails using a Kinect interface, it turned a bathtub into a giant touchscreen and it even helped protect the Korean border . Microsoft’s own HoloLens projects used sensors derived from the Kinect specifically for depth sensing or Windows Hello, the new unlock feature in Windows 10 which is based on the facial recognition software used in Kinect.

The iPhone X’s face ID uses technology that the Kinect popularised, thanks to Apple’s acquisition of PrimeSense, the company that pioneered the tech that drove the Kinect’s depth sensing algorithms. Not bad for something meant as a gaming accessory.

The one good game that never came

Throughout all the announcements of third-party support for the peripheral, many projects were simply cancelled or just disappeared. Some which came out after many delays like Fable: The Journey received mediocre reviews. Microsoft’s own first-party titles developed by Rare were also overlooked. In time, Kinect also garnered a reputation of being a mini-game platform, something that did not bode well for its future, worse yet many developers simply stopped support for the Kinect or shoehorned in Kinect support into titles not designed around it. Throughout its tenure with the Xbox 360, it never got the one killer app it needed to draw people in.

The Xbox One: The final nail in the coffin

When Microsoft announced the Xbox One, it was come bundled with an improved Kinect 2 sensor with an improved 1080p High-resolution camera, a new 512x424 depth-sensing camera, improved Horizontal and vertical FOV (Field of View), a USB 3.0 interface and the ability to track up to 6 skeletons with 26 joints at the same time. While all of that sounded great, the messaging around the Xbox One made it seem like the camera would be on all the time to help detect people. This naturally set off many red flags in people’s minds regarding privacy. Microsoft also announced that the Xbox One would need to be connected to the internet all the time, which when combined with the always-on Kinect camera, only made things worse. Microsoft eventually abandoned this requirement three months before launch but by then, it was already too late. It also made the Xbox One more expensive at launch than the PS4 and finally after losing the early battle with Sony, Microsoft eventually decoupled the Kinect and sold it separately.

When Microsoft released the Xbox One S in 2016, which was a refresh of the original Xbox One, it took out the proprietary Kinect port entirely, forcing people to use adapters if they wanted to use the sensor with the new console. In a way, it was an admission that the Kinect failed and fast forward to October 2017, it has now stopped manufacturing the peripheral.

In a way, Kinect was far ahead of its time, falling prey to bad marketing and equally contrived bad games. You could also say it became the fall guy when Microsoft needed someone to blame for the Xbox One’s dismal sales. Manufactured or not, Kinect will go down in history as the peripheral that was on the cusp of technologies yet to come. It inspired a passionate community of hackers and modders and some of its technology will live on in future iterations of its tech. It will also go down in history as the gadget that single handedly reduced the mighty Rare studios into a mini-game company. Love it or hate it, the Kinect was a force to be reckoned with, it’s just a shame nobody figured out what to do with it.