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December 20, 2010

Microsoft Talks of Updating Resolution for Kinect

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

With so many game systems and accessories on the market, it’s often hard to determine whether a new product will garner positive reviews from consumers, or have high selling potential. One product in particular, the Microsoft Kinect accessory for the Xbox 360, was deemed to be quite successful after sales went through the roof following its November launch, despite its initial lukewarm reviews.  

According to a Daily Tech report, it was a smart move on Microsoft’s (News - Alert) part to launch the accessory. In fact, billions of dollars spent on advertisements for the console may have been the reason behind its high sales. In addition, the modding community also discovered that the Kinect is extremely hackable – therefore, it can do just about any function a user desires.

Now, Microsoft is looking to perform updates on the Kinect accessory, including improvements to its resolution. The current model’s resolution for monitor movement is limited by the firmware to 320 x 240 at 30 frames per second. Since the resolution and device features are managed by the firmware, the resolution and feature settings can easily be updated through the Xbox dashboard.

The Microsoft team is now working to increase the resolution of the depth sensor to 640 x 480. If this update happens, the increase would effectively quadruple the sensor’s rate accuracy, enabling the sensor to detect finger and hand rotations.

While it would seem that this higher resolution should have been the starting point for the device when it was first introduced, Microsoft did have a strategy, according to the Daily Tech report. The lower resolution provided during Kinect’s first launch allowed for multiple USB devices to be used at one time. The USB controller interface inside the device can accommodate 35MB/s, but only uses about 16MB/s of that bandwidth to allow for more devices. 

Microsoft appears to be working to get even more bandwidth for the device. One method the company could deploy is to disable or lower throughput of game installs that are running from USB flash drives, according to the Daily Tech report

Even with these planned improvements, Daily Tech noted that there are still some industry insiders questioning whether or not the sensor will be as accurate with the resolution increase. And, with the increased speed to process the proposed number of pixels, it could hamper the speed of the system and negate the benefit these upgrades were meant to provide.

In other Microsoft news, the software giant’s search engine, Bing recently introduced several upgrades in an apparent attempt to increase Microsoft’s market position against search engine rival Google. Some of the most popular improvements on Bing relate to Facebook with like annotations. Therefore, links listed on the search results page will indicate if they were “liked” by the user’s Facebook (News - Alert) friends. 

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