For anyone paying attention, it seems like Microsoft has all but given up on the Xbox One Kinect sensor with the release of the Xbox One S. In order to make the Xbox One S as compact as possible, the company shifted some of the ports and buttons around, and removed the Kinect port from the console altogether.
From the Xbox Wire Xbox One S announcement page (emphasis added):
For increased accessibility, we shifted one of the three USB ports and the pairing button to the front of the Xbox One S alongside the newly added IR blaster. Additionally, in order to make the Xbox One S as compact as possible and make all of these updates, we removed the dedicated Kinect port from the back. Kinect for Xbox One will still be compatible with Xbox One S via the Xbox Kinect Adapter for USB connection and offers the same great experiences as the current console. For fans that currently own a Kinect for Xbox One and plan to purchase the Xbox One S, we are offering a free Xbox Kinect Adapter.
What’s even more interesting is this line on the Xbox Support page for the Xbox Kinect Adapter (emphasis added):
This adapter will be available for free to customers who have an existing Xbox One console, an Xbox One Kinect and an Xbox One S console.
Translation: you’ll only get the free Xbox One Kinect sensor adapter for the Xbox One S IF you own an Xbox One console, the Xbox One Kinect sensor, AND the Xbox One S console. So what happens if you purchase an Xbox One S as your first Xbox One console and decide to pick up an Xbox One Kinect for whatever reason? Will Microsoft send you a free adapter anyways, or will have to purchase one somewhere — if you’re even able to purchase one?
If you read our Xbox E3 overview, you probably didn’t even notice that we didn’t mention anything about the Kinect. The reason? Because there was no mention of the Kinect sensor during Microsoft’s Xbox E3 press conference, none, nada, zilch, nyet… Granted, Microsoft has moved the IR blaster into the console itself with the Xbox One S, and the upcoming dashboard update will be bringing Cortana support — support that doesn’t require a Kinect sensor because you’ll be able to use Cortana with a headset.
So the question begs to be asked: has Microsoft given up on the Xbox One Kinect sensor? With the IR blaster on the Xbox One S, and one would assume on next year’s Project Scorpio, as well as voice support through headsets with Cortana, is there really a need for the Kinect sensor anymore? Sure you’ll lose the ability to use the “Xbox On” command, and Microsoft could easily rectify that with a USB microphone solution, and perhaps Project Scorpio will incorporate an onboard microphone as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my Kinect. The kids love being able to control the Xbox power on and off, as well as volume, and playing and pausing videos with their voices. But even though I’m a fan of it, I never utilized the Kinect to its full potential, especially the hand gestures — and apparently no one else did as Microsoft dumped that support when they launched the New Xbox One Experience dashboard last November. I’m a huge fan of Kinect in games, but there hasn’t been a decent Kinect game out in a while (although if you have a Kinect sensor I highly recommend Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved and Blue Estate), and developers obviously don’t see the merit in the Kinect sensor either — which may or may not be attributed back to when Microsoft announced a Kinect-less Xbox One.
And then there’s VR. It’s the latest gaming tech on the block, and with the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, and others around the corner, Kinect technology definitely feels outdated and is definitely less immersive. Not to mention Microsoft’s HoloLens as well.
I’ll fondly remember my time with the Kinect, from getting the Xbox 360 Kinect sensor as part of the beta test under NDA and being blown away with it even in its initial stages, to being pleased to see that Microsoft was selling it with every Xbox One console hoping that developers would jump on board and use it more, to where we are today. Perhaps it is time to move on, and call the Kinect what it is — a technological advance that never caught on as well as it should have.
UPDATE (15/06/2016 11:45PM ET): The Verge interviewed Shannon Loftis, Microsoft’s general manager of Microsoft Studios Global Publishing, about various things Xbox One, included the current status of the Xbox One Kinect. Here’s what she had to say:
The Verge: You said there were still Kinect games in development unannounced. Are there still Kinect games in development that aren’t announced?
Loftis: So I can tell you that my group, personally, continues — every time we pick a new game, we look at it as a candidate. Like is Kinect an additive to this, or can this open up a new Kinect door? As of right now, we’re not talking about any games that are.
I do know that there’s still interest in the game development community in Kinect. But I’m not directly involved in any of it, so I can’t really talk about… are there actually games in the works? I don’t know.
The Verge: So at Microsoft properly, there are not Kinect games in the works? Or that you’re directly connected to?
Loftis: That we can talk about right now. Remember, we started this out talking about how we have a few things we’re talking about, and a bunch of things we’re not talking about. What I’m saying is it’s an interesting enough technology for us that we still take a look at it every time a new idea comes along. So it’s not 100 percent dead. But I’m definitely not… I can’t say for sure there are games in development that are Kinect-based or take advantage of some aspect of Kinect. Personally, I’m just not allowed to talk about anything I’m not allowed to talk about. If that makes sense.
I’ve got to admit, even though Loftis says that Kinect is not 100 percent dead, her responses definitely don’t sound very reassuring…
What do you think about the stance Microsoft seems to be taking with regards to the Xbox One Kinect sensor, largely by not even mentioning it anymore besides as an afterthought? Let us know in the comments below, or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.