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The Kinect lives on through Microsoft's new project for Azure

Microsoft is giving new life to the innovative camera it once bundled with the Xbox One by launching a new version of the sensor for use with its Azure AI tech.

Microsoft is giving new life to the innovative sensor it once bundled with the Xbox One by creating an updated version of the hardware for use with Azure.

The company has announced Project Kinect for Azure and hopes its efforts will result in the creation of new AI solutions, including things like deeper machine learning and cognitive services.

While the Kinect may not have been embraced by the game industry as much as Microsoft would’ve liked, the tech behind it led to some interesting uses, both in and out of game development. Those applications are partially what encouraged the Microsoft team to open the technology up to other industries, resulting in this latest project.

“Our vision when we created the original Kinect for Xbox 360 was to produce a device capable of recognizing and understanding people so that computers could learn to operate on human terms,” explains Microsoft’s Alex Kipman. “Creative developers realized that the technology in Kinect (including the depth-sensing camera) could be used for things far beyond gaming.”

Just looking at Microsoft’s own efforts, this is the fourth generation the Kinect tech has seen during its lifetime. The first two iterations of the hardware were used alongside the Xbox 360 and, later, the Xbox One, though Microsoft has fully shut down the manufacture of both the console-tied Kinect versions and the adaptors that made the sensor comparable with newer Xbox One systems. The third version of the hardware was used to power the Microsoft HoloLens, and the fourth is the version that Azure will make use of. 

This time around, the Kinect has received some notable improvements like a megapixel resolution of 1024x1024, automatic per-pixel gain selection to enable a larger dynamic range, improved performance in sunlight, and a new depth calculation method that enables “robust accuracy.”

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