A New Kinect Camera: The Xbox One's Other Controller
The Other Controller
The new Kinect camera is a key component that differentiates the Xbox One from Sony's PS4. Where both consoles are at least somewhat comparable in terms of technology and features, Microsoft's insistence that every Xbox One include a Kinect is at least as significant a point as the Wii U's tablet-like controller. Granted, Sony has a new camera for its PS4 as well, but that's an optional accessory that must be purchased separately, meaning developers cannot make the assumption that you have one.
This next-generation Kinect is improved in every way. It now features a 1080p camera, stepping up from the previous model's 640x480 resolution. That alone should make Skype calling a far better experience, even from one big-screen TV to another. The new hardware also employs time-of-flight technology, which measures the time it takes individual photons to rebound off an object or person to create a depth map. The camera now uses a global shutter, rather than a rolling shutter, reducing motion blur to less than 14 ms. Compare that to the original Kinect's 65 ms.
The new Kinect also has a 60%-wider field of view, making it better at sensing multiple players. If you're confined to a smaller space, you'll appreciate that the new camera works at a minimum distance of 4.59 feet. The old Kinect needed at least six feet. You connect the Kinect to Microsoft's console using a nine-foot cable. Ideally, that'll accommodate mode living room setups.
In response to some very valid privacy concerns, Kinect is no longer required for the Xbox One to work. However, not plugging it in naturally pares back the ways you're able to interact with the Xbox.
Assuming you want to use Kinect, certain system functions can be controlled through gestures (navigating from one page to the next, for example, or expanding windows). That's nifty functionality of course, just as it was on Xbox 360, but ultimately not as advanced as anything you saw in Minority Report or Iron Man. We found it faster to use the controller or voice commands.
Controlling the Xbox One with voice is similar today as it was in the previous generation. Phrases like "Xbox, go home" or "Xbox, go to Forza 5" worked well during our review. If you're in standby mode, Kinect also turns on the console when it hears "Xbox, turn on."
Kinect does gather a stunning amount of information about your home environment. Microsoft claims that it processes 2 Gb of data per second, so naturally this sort of technology will be embraced by some and labeled invasive by others. As an example, the new Kinect recognizes faces, and thus automatically log users in. When I power up the Xbox One, it sits on a generic start screen. But when I walk into the camera's view, my profile appears and I'm greeting with "Hi Marcus!".