Tech Biz

New Xbox Kinect Can Understand Two People Talking at Once

Upgrades to Microsoft’s popular sensor may set it apart from PS4.

The new Kinect that comes with Microsoft’s next-generation Xbox One is a powerful piece of technology. Phil Harrison, Microsoft’s corporate vice president, has revealed that the bundled sensor is capable of distinguishing the voices of two separate gamers who are talking at the same time. Not only that, but the new Kinect can even detect whether or not their mouths are moving when playing in a dark room.

“The Kinect has a built-in microphone array, so it will be able to detect where sounds are coming from, and actively pair the voice commands with the individual who issued them,” said ExtremeTech. “Imagine playing a quiz game where you could simply blurt out the answer, and the Xbox One could determine who answered first. It has a lot of potential, but the burden falls on Microsoft to properly incentivize developers to take advantage of this tech going forward.”

At last month’s Tokyo Game Show, Sony – perhaps feeling pressured by the impressive new Kinect – claimed that its own “PlayStation 4 Eye” camera would be on-par with Microsoft’s offering. Sony Computer Entertainment’s Shuhei Yoshida gave a demonstration of the PS4 Eye during Sony’s keynote at the gaming expo, promising that it would offer both voice and facial recognition.

Hardware-wise, the updated Kinect for Xbox One features an ultra-wide 1080p camera, an infrared sensor, and an image processor with a latency of only 20 milliseconds. It has a 70-degree field of view and can detect players from 0.8 to 4.2 meters away.

“The new Kinect sensor can detect 25 joints between six different people, as well as recognize who is using the controller, estimate heart rates, and map faces to 1,400 points,” added Polygon. “At the moment families struggle for control of the remote for channel surfing, but if Microsoft's Kinect sensor gets popular then we could soon be shouting for control of the TV and the Xbox will now have to decide who wins.”

Microsoft will include the new Kinect with every Xbox One console, which launches on November 22. It will cost $500, which is $100 more than Sony’s rival PS4. Sony’s PS4 Eye camera will not be packaged with every console, but it will retail for only $60. Additionally, Sony announced a special Killzone: Shadow Fall console bundle for the European market – complete with two DualShock 4 controllers, a PS4 Eye camera, and a copy of the new shooter. It will sell for 500 euros ($677), the same price as the basic Xbox One package.

Microsoft has more prior success with games that utilize its Kinect feature, so Sony may be playing catch-up on that front of the next-generation console war. Ultimately, it is up to the developers – and gamer demand – to introduce titles that take advantage of these powerful new peripherals.