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New Microsoft Kinect enters PC motion-controller wars

Microsoft's new Kinect goes up against companies like Leap Motion and Thalmic Labs to bring motion control to PCs.

Microsoft isn't going to sit idly by as companies like Leap Motion and Thalmic Labs bring motion control to PCs.

Following Microsoft's Xbox One announcement Tuesday, Kinect program manager Scott Evans told Shacknews that the company will bring its next-generation motion controller to PCs in the future. "We will have more information soon," Evans said.

The Xbox One's version of Kinect is much more powerful than the existing model. It can process data at a faster rate, has a 60 percent wider field of view, and supports 1080p video at 30 frames per second. Its motion tracking is much more accurate, able to detect fingers, wrist movement and shoulder rotation.

Just like the existing Kinect, the new model can process voice commands as well, but with a snappier response. The new model can even detect the user's heart rate by measuring skin tone and blood flow.

It's easy to imagine how a more advanced Kinect would be useful for PC applications. Finger tracking would allow for more accurate motion control, like the kind Leap Motion will launch next month. Face and voice recognition could someday allow users to log into their PCs without a password, and a heart rate monitor could be helpful for fitness applications.

Challenges

But Microsoft has some challenges ahead if it wants Kinect to play a big role on PCs. The new Kinect is larger than the old model, which might not be a problem for entertainment systems, but it will be impractical for laptops and an eyesore on small desks. Microsoft may eventually try to embed Kinect's technology in PCs, but it's unclear how long that'll take to become a reality.

Also, the current Windows version of Kinect costs $250, which is $150 more than the Xbox 360 version. Microsoft subsidizes the Kinect for Xbox 360, knowing it can make up the difference by selling games, Xbox Live subscriptions, and services for the console. Windows 8 could offer a similar opportunity for subsidies with the Windows Store, Xbox Music, and Office 365, but that's just an assumption at this point.

Meanwhile, the Leap Motion goes on sale next month, and Thalmic Labs' MYOwill hit the market in early 2014. Neither will offer the face and voice recognition promised by Kinect, but both devices are winning over app developers before Microsoft even has a chance to put out its own product.


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