Obituary: Kinect (2010-2017)

kinectI remember a time, before 2010, when I was excited about Project Natal. I even wrote a blog about it for Ready Up in which I dreamed of walking through an adventure game, using my body to control my character.

Because, before the Kinect (as Project Natal came to be) was released, that was what we all thought we’d be doing.

It was only after it came out that it turned out we’d spend most of our time just waving at it or swiping to the left and right to get through menus.

The Kinect technology was pretty sophisticated. Utilising an infra-red laser grid, invisible to the human eye (but visible via night-vision tech), the sensor could detect the movements of a human body. It could determine where your arms and legs were in relation to the rest of your body, and in relation to the position of the sensor.

Unfortunately somewhere along the line the brains behind Kinect forgot that a lot of gamers lived in houses with things like furniture or pets. Or that they didn’t necessarily have a set-up which could accommodate a large black (or white if you could hold out until 2011) sensor above or below the position of your television and able to see your entire body if you stood in the room. Not only that, but the motors that drove the adjustable tilt required more power than the console could provide and so required you to find another spare plug socket to power the thing.

Kinect became a bit of a hit and miss affair. Or a swipe and failure to detect affair, to be more accurate. It would work. It wouldn’t work. And then the only things really worth getting were the dance games. Despite all the wonderful things Kinect could – in theory – do, the games that were released were pretty poor. And they slowly faded into the background as the Xbox 360 advanced in age.

When the Xbox One came along, Kinect version 2 was bundled with it. This was part of an earlier plan by Microsoft than involved your Kinect always being connected to the Xbox One in order for the console to work. The new Kinect could track six skeletons, detect heart rates, recognise facial expressions and even go so far as to see what you were doing with your thumbs.

Mostly, though, it just turned your console on whenever the guy from Breaking Bad said “Xbox On” in that advert he did.

It wasn’t long before the Xbox One started to ship without the Kinect. Not that the Kinect was dead and buried. Oh no. Instead, you could buy a Kinect separately. The only real reason you’d want to do that is so that you could use as a camera for your game streams via Twitch or, more recently, Mixer. While it might not be dead and buried, it was certainly looking off-colour and being measured for a coffin.

The Autumn 2017 Dashboard Update, though, hammered home the final nails. Within the update is a feature which allows you to use any USB webcam with your Xbox One during streams. The only remaining reason for the Kinect to exist was gone. Kinect, once a vibrant and promising upstart, had gotten old and infirm, gave a final cough and was gone.

There are to be no more Kinect sensors made. What there is out there, and in living rooms across the globe, is it. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

But I’m not sure anyone will really notice.