I hate to use the phrase "back in my day," but I'm going to anyway. Back in my day, games were played with a controller and that was it. Sure you had arcade games with light guns and you had the occasional peripheral, but otherwise you expected games to be compatible with a controller and that was it. Then the Nintendo Wii came along, and suddenly everything changed. Motion gaming was the new thing. Getting up off the couch, moving around, this was the future!
Or was it? It's time to take a look at this trend up until now and see where it's heading. With the rise of the HoloLens, is there any hope for Kinect on Xbox Two, or is this fad on it's last legs? Time to find out.
The Explosion of Motion-Based Gaming
Sony and Microsoft didn't wait long to realize this was a thing and in the case of the Xbox we saw a motion tracking camera that was originally called "Project Natal." Later, prior to its release, it was named the "Kinect." It released as an optional purchase for the Xbox 360 and included it's own set of titles. Some were entirely focused on the device, while others simply added some Kinect features like voice commands or light gestures.
It seemed like a hit, and it was at first. The problem was that the technology wasn't perfect, heck in some cases it didn't even work right at all (I'm looking at you Steel Battalion). Flash forward and Microsoft decided to try again with the Xbox One, going to far as to make it part of the system bundle and a integral part of the Xbox One experience. Here's the thing, Microsoft's original version of the Xbox One, you know,the one they had to scrap after public outcry,originally required that the Kinect be plugged in at all times.
This immediately caused privacy concerns, and for good reason. In a post Edward Snowden world where we now have hard evidence that the government likes to spy on people, an always-online Kinect seemed like the perfect way for Microsoft to get their hands in the mix. Of course, this probably wasn't the case, but people have their preconceived notions. The reason for the original plan was so that the Kinect could easily turn on your system, scan your face, and get you right into the action. It would always be poised and ready for you.
So, after the famous turnaround, the Xbox One released with the Kinect as planned, but without any requirements for using it. It had some games come out for it at first, but that number has dwindled significantly, almost to the point of non-existence. Combine this with the fact that they are now selling Xbox One consoles without the Kinect,and you have what looks to be clear signs that Microsoft has given up on their motion sensor.
Of course, we as gamers know that nothing is that cut and dry, especially when they've sunk countless dollars into making this sensor a success in some form. So, that begs the question, is the Kinect dead, and more importantly, will we see a 3.0 version of it on the Xbox Two?
Alone, but Not Forgotten
Xbox's head of publishing, Shannon Loftis, recently did an interview with The Verge where she discussed the future of Xbox. As you can imagine, her answers were a gold mine of information and speculation. Even so, she brought up some points relevant to our current topic, so let's she what she had to say.
When asked about rumors that members of the Kinect team have been moved to HoloLens development, she responded with this statement:
"That is true. I mean, obviously, Alex Kipman is one of the inventors of Kinect. And Kudo, who's next door to me. After rolling out the Kinect program they moved onto the next thing, which turned out to be HoloLens. But there's still quite a few people working on Kinect. It's still a vibrant development ecosystem, still part of the Xbox experience as well."
Okay, so she sounds confident in the future of the Kinect, but where are the games? The Verge asked about this next and this was her response:
"There are games actually that are coming out for Kinect, I don't get to announce them."
Ok, but how does HoloLens play into this? Would it play nice with Kinect, or is there not enough room in the money pond for both of these fish? Her response was very interesting:
"Well the interesting thing about HoloLens is that it's not an accessory, it's a completely self-contained holographic computing device."
As far as Microsoft is concerned, the HoloLens is not an Xbox accessory, it's a separate device. In other words, there isn't any competition between it and Kinect because Microsoft will be marketing the device to a much wider audience. Time to look into the future!
HoloLens and Kinect: A Match Made in Heaven?
Does anyone remember IllumiRoom? This was a tech demo of sorts that Microsoft showed off which utilized the Kinect and a projectors to bring the experience out of your television and onto the walls of your living room. One could argue that the concept eventually became the HoloLens, but I think it's merely taken a backseat for the time being.
Case and point, HoloLens uses augmented reality. In terms of games, this technology can only work with the space you have in your living room, which limits the scope of games it can be used with. What if Microsoft was able to side-step that issue by crafting a Kinect 3.0 with the Xbox Two that could utilize a higher form of this IllumiRoom technology in conjunction with the HoloLens to create an entire environment around you that would eliminate the inherent issues with augmenting the space in a living room.
Of course, this idea would only work if there was a demand for the Kinect, or if HoloLens was an accessory for the Xbox Two. Right now, there isn't a whole lot going on with the Kinect, and the HoloLens is being billed as it's own separate device. They may not have need for one another, at least not right now, but a perfect storm could bring them together in a big way.
None of this blatantly shows that the next Xbox console will have the Kinect, but it certainly doesn't condemn the device either. Microsoft hasn't given up on it, at least not on paper. If the HoloLens can work in tandem with the Kinect via something like IllumiRoom, then I think we'll see the camera device on Xbox Two. If that's not a possibility, then I think the only hope Kinect has on Xbox Two is if these supposed "unannounced Kinect games" bring the peripheral back to life on the Xbox One.
Time will tell as it always does. Personally, I would like to see what Kinect can do on Xbox Two, I think it's a brilliant device that is almost at the peak of its potential. It just needs a boost in tech and the right games to go with it. What do you think though? Is Kinect dead or does it have potential to show up with the Xbox Two? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!