Microsoft kills Kinect just as Apple dives into facial recognition with iPhone X Face ID

Posted:
in iPhone edited October 2017
With days until the launch of the iPhone X and its Face ID camera array, Microsoft's own motion sensing and facial recognition system for Xbox, dubbed Kinect, has been officially discontinued after a long period of languish. AppleInsider explains how Apple and Microsoft's separate facial recognition technologies -- one failed, one upcoming -- both share common roots.




Kinect first debuted as an optional accessory for the Xbox 360 in the fall of 2010, amid a wave of motion-controlled gaming hype. The camera and microphone system found initial success, but quickly faltered as the technical limitations of the device became apparent in gameplay.

For Apple fans, Microsoft's first Kinect for Xbox 360 is noteworthy because it was based on technology licensed from an Israeli company called PrimeSense. Apple eventually bought PrimeSense for $345 million in late 2013, paving the way for the Face ID technology that will debut next Friday in the iPhone X.




After the first Kinect lost steam, Microsoft went with different -- and more expensive -- technology for Kinect 2.0. That resulted in the next-generation Xbox One launching with a high $500 price tag -- $100 more than its primary competitor, Sony's PlayStation 4.

With sales struggling, Microsoft looked to reduce costs on the Xbox One, and began selling it without the Kinect sensor. Support for the accessory quickly became nonexistent.

This week, Microsoft confirmed to Fast Company that it has ceased manufacturing of the Kinect hardware entirely. Given the lack of Kinect support on Xbox One, it's not surprising.




It is a rather tremendous fall from grace for the Kinect platform, which had the ability to track motion, understand a user's voice, and recognize their face. Developers hacked it to scan objects and entire rooms in 3D, and Microsoft promised that future updates would be able to distinguish fingertips and understand complex hand movements like sign language.

The technology's initial promise would ultimately go unfulfilled -- at least in Microsoft's hands.

Apple saw value in the same technology, but took a different approach

In many ways, Microsoft was ahead of its time in the pursuit of motion sensing and facial recognition technology. But the company applied that technology in in rather simple ways, with a focus on gaming and entertainment.

An Xbox One paired with Kinect will still identify individual users when they step in front of the TV. But it's a mere convenience, and certainly not a reliable security method.

Interestingly, when Apple bought PrimeSense, many onlookers speculated that Apple would follow in Microsoft's footsteps and release facial and motion recognition technology for a future Apple TV update.




It turned out that Apple had very different plans, seeing the miniaturization of the same technology as the future. The purchase of PrimeSense proved to be part of Apple's push to replace Touch ID with Face ID and TrueDepth.

While Kinect can recognize a user, greet them, and track their hand movements, it never found much utility beyond casual games. In particular, the motion tracking was occasionally unresponsive and frequently lacking in precision, meaning traditional gamers preferred to stick to reliable physical controllers.

Dedicated console gamers -- a sizable but still niche group -- saw the Kinect as a gimmick. It was a subset of a subset of a market.

Apple's far tinier and far more capable Face ID offers a more essential function -- its TrueDepth camera system is the primary security point for a device millions of users will turn to countless times per day: the flagship iPhone X. By scanning a user's face in 3D, in much the same way that Kinect could scan an entire room, the iPhone X can securely identify a user with accuracy greater than Touch ID.




Though they share common roots, Kinect and Face ID are not a simple comparison. Apple, of course, has had the advantage of time, given how far technology has advanced since that first Kinect launched in 2010. And access to Face ID carries a starting price of $999 for the entry-level iPhone X, far more than Microsoft has ever charged for any Xbox model or its accessories.

Microsoft sold 24 million of the first PrimeSense-powered Kinect by February of 2013, a little over two years after it launched.

Given the sales history of new iPhone models, Apple could very well exceed that number with the iPhone X in just its first two months -- provided the company can keep up with consumer demand.




Microsoft's investment in Kinect was not for nothing -- it lives on in other ways, including Cortana, its voice-driven personal assistant that competes with Apple's Siri. The core sensor also powers Microsoft's Hololens augmented reality headset, which remains developer-only for the time being.

Ships passing in the night

The strange saga of Apple and Microsoft crossing paths, with one entering a market while its rival exits, is not new.

Most notably, Microsoft began to push its Zune media player as a threat to the iPod in November of 2006, only a few months before Apple unveiled the first iPhone. While Microsoft was desperate to chase Apple's success in portable media players, Apple was instead busy skating to where the puck would be.




History has not treated the Zune kindly, seeing Microsoft's attempt as completely lacking in vision. The Zune was unceremoniously killed a few short years after it debuted.

Instead of being late, Microsoft was ahead of the game with its pursuit of touchscreen devices, including early smartphones and tablets, throughout the 2000s.




However, Microsoft focused on stylus input and handwriting recognition, or gimmicks like the original table-sized Surface computer, which failed to gain traction with consumers in meaningful ways.

Apple, meanwhile, took a slow and steady approach, waiting for capacitive, finger-friendly touchscreen technology to get smaller and more affordable. Its debut of the first iPhone in 2007, followed by the iPad in 2010, caught Microsoft flat-footed, eventually leading to the Windows maker's ultimate demise in the smartphone space.




The company's legacy Windows Mobile platform was eventually replaced by a more modern Windows Phone operating system, but it came years after the first iPhone launched.

The move proved to be too little, too late. Microsoft officially ended support for Windows Phone in July of this year -- just after Apple unveiled iOS 11, and as hype for the upcoming iPhone X was in full swing.
rdevillerspatchythepirate
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 5,885member
    First the Windows phone and now Kinect.
    calilolliverRacerhomieXwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 39
    lkrupp said:
    First the Windows phone and now Kinect.
    Don't worry, it's not going to hurt Microsoft's share price. The company is now as valuable as it's ever been. Wall Street believes their gains continue to outweigh their losses. Besides, those products weren't high drivers of revenue for Microsoft.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 39
    I thought they said the Kinect was the future of computing. A game changer, in fact. Oh, well, people who are always making predictions about the future are often wrong, although they'll never admit to it.
    lolliverRacerhomieXwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 39
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,222member
    I thought they said the Kinect was the future of computing. A game changer, in fact. Oh, well, people who are always making predictions about the future are often wrong, although they'll never admit to it.
    Under Ballmer, everything was the future. He had some much BS it was incredible! 
    bb-15pscooter63lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 39
    "Windows Hello" deserves some sort of acknowledgement here, if only to point out that even when Microsoft beats Apple to market on the same implementation, they somehow fumble the ball. (see Time Machine, countless other examples…)
    edited October 2017 vonbrickgregg thurman78Banditlolliver
  • Reply 6 of 39
    Microsoft was the first major technology company (or first in line) who offered:
    • Touch interface tablet computing
    • Monthly music subscriptions
    • Smartphones
    • and more...
    yet Microsoft has CONSTANTLY cut themselves off at the knees when it comes to their consumer offerings using "left-brain" marketing and being too early to market with substandard or incapable design.  The Kinect is the latest in a long line of products from Redmond that get tossed because Microsoft can't figure out how to talk to the customers their developers need to justify the investment.  

    Until Microsoft figures out how to design for and talk to consumers who automatically think MICROSOFT=WINDOWS, they can be the first to market with the coolest technology or gadget and still fail every time.
    edited October 2017 mike1macky the mackylolliverwatto_cobracgWerks
  • Reply 7 of 39
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 1,700member
    lkrupp said:
    First the Windows phone and now Kinect.


    The Kinect would have really been something BIG on the Xbox One. I have it!! As soon as Microsoft pulled it as a standard feature of the console and turned it into a optional accessory, that was the death of it right then!!! Optional accessory's on Consoles almost ALWAYS FAIL. I don't know of any that did good. The Kinect for the 360 came out later in the consoles like and did all right. Anything else? You then have the problem of people aren't going to buy a Kinect if the games don't support it. But the company's aren't going to support the kinect of people don't have it!!!!

    I could go on long list of accessory's that failed. Some I can think off on the of my head is the SegaCD and Sega32x. The PS2 HDD. The N64 Memory expander.

    I have the Xbox One which came with the Kinect. I have it hooked up. I have the original Kinect for the XBox 360 in the other room hooked up also. I'm surprised Microsoft kept it around this long. I think the PS4 VR stuff will also DIE at some point. It just doesn't have the games for it. Few games, people aren't going to spend the money for it. Again, optional accessory.

    I was pissed when Microsoft pulled the Kinect as part of the Xbox. So what if it was $100 more then the PS4 back then. Did it help sell more Xbox One's? I don't think it did. The PS4 still sold in much larger numbers. Because MS pulled the Kinect from the system, they basically killed my Kinerct, turning it worthless because it never got the support it would have gotten otherwise.
    edited October 2017 watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 39
    Eric_WVGG said:
    "Windows Hello" deserves some sort of acknowledgement here, if only to point out that even when Microsoft beats Apple to market on the same implementation, they somehow fumble the ball. (see Time Machine, countless other examples…)
    I've been a computer user since the days of DEC's CPM, and frankly I can't think of a single Microsoft initiative other than Office (first developed for the Mac) that proved prescient.

    I'm discounting MS/DOS because Microsoft bought the underlying technology from Seattle Computer, glommed important elements into it that were obtained off of public bulletin boards, repackaged it, then sold its to IBM.  Its important to note that Microsoft used to claim 40,000 titles written for DOS.  Importantly, most were utilities and/or libraries that fixed many short coming of MS/DOS.

    Microsoft made its bones by focusing on the enterprise (MSCE) and not the consumer.  Its ironic that the consumer is now dictating the shift away from Microsoft's enterprise dominance in favor of Apple technology (the inspiration for most of Microsoft's initiatives).  Without Apple, we'd all still be using DOS and computers would still be big grey boxes, intimidating as hell.
    caliphbianpscooter63macky the mackylolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 39
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 736editor
    jbdragon said:
    lkrupp said:
    First the Windows phone and now Kinect.


    I think the PS4 VR stuff will also DIE at some point. It just doesn't have the games for it. Few games, people aren't going to spend the money for it. Again, optional accessory. 
    I won't argue with you on the future of the PS VR, because the truth is I don't know. But I will say that the PS VR did relatively well in terms of sales its first year, considering it had (at the time) the lowest entry price of any VR system, and it also had a good lineup of exclusive, PlayStation-only VR games. To that end, I'd contend with your "it doesn't have the games for it" line. They may not be Uncharted-caliber exclusives, but Sony has a pretty good in-house development lineup that has cranked out a number of titles that you can only play on PS VR, including Farpoint, Driveclub, Rigs, Battlezone and more. And while it's not an in-house game, Resident Evil 7 VR is another big exclusive. All of that stuff actually helped PS VR outsell the likes of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. It's possible that subsequent price cuts for Oculus have changed the tide (wouldn't surprise me), but as a niche product, PS VR is not quite the Genesis 32X.

    I'll also note that I still have my Xbox One Kinect hooked up, though the voice recognition for a full-size box is embarrassingly bad (for example, when I use it to change channels on my cable box, it cannot distinguish between "CNBC" and "CMT").
    boltsfan17d_2
  • Reply 10 of 39
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,616member
    My family and I had some fun with the first Connect as part of XBox 360. Biggest drawback was you needed to stand back quite a bit. Not enough room in our kids' smallish bedrooms. Definitely had potential, though.
    llama
  • Reply 11 of 39
    The difference is that Apple has earned the trust of users while Microsoft has not. Apple fought off the FBI's demands for access to private encrypted data while Microsoft was actually paid by the NSA to provide access to private data of citizens via the Prism program. It was obvious from the start how the Kinect would be used to spy on everyone.
    caliwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 39
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,036member
    I thought they said the Kinect was the future of computing. A game changer, in fact. Oh, well, people who are always making predictions about the future are often wrong, although they'll never admit to it.
    The technology in the Kinect is the future of computing… for Apple. :wink: 
    edited October 2017 caliretrogustowatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 39
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 1,873member
    jbdragon said:
    lkrupp said:
    First the Windows phone and now Kinect.


    The Kinect would have really been something BIG on the Xbox One. I have it!! As soon as Microsoft pulled it as a standard feature of the console and turned it into a optional accessory, that was the death of it right then!!! Optional accessory's on Consoles almost ALWAYS FAIL. I don't know of any that did good. The Kinect for the 360 came out later in the consoles like and did all right. Anything else? You then have the problem of people aren't going to buy a Kinect if the games don't support it. But the company's aren't going to support the kinect of people don't have it!!!!

    I could go on long list of accessory's that failed. Some I can think off on the of my head is the SegaCD and Sega32x. The PS2 HDD. The N64 Memory expander.

    I have the Xbox One which came with the Kinect. I have it hooked up. I have the original Kinect for the XBox 360 in the other room hooked up also. I'm surprised Microsoft kept it around this long. I think the PS4 VR stuff will also DIE at some point. It just doesn't have the games for it. Few games, people aren't going to spend the money for it. Again, optional accessory.

    I was pissed when Microsoft pulled the Kinect as part of the Xbox. So what if it was $100 more then the PS4 back then. Did it help sell more Xbox One's? I don't think it did. The PS4 still sold in much larger numbers. Because MS pulled the Kinect from the system, they basically killed my Kinerct, turning it worthless because it never got the support it would have gotten otherwise.
    It remains to be seen if the PS4 VR will fail. That's not true at all about the PS4 VR. It does have the games for it. The big gaming studios have been releasing titles for the PSVR. There are over 280 PSVR games so it does have plenty of games. Sony is actually even releasing an updated PSVR this year. Sales are still great so its far from being dead. 
  • Reply 14 of 39
    Maybe they should stick to using their profits to improving their software and OS packages?
    StrangeDays
  • Reply 15 of 39
    Eric_WVGG said:
    "Windows Hello" deserves some sort of acknowledgement here, if only to point out that even when Microsoft beats Apple to market on the same implementation, they somehow fumble the ball. (see Time Machine, countless other examples…)
    I've been a computer user since the days of DEC's CPM, and frankly I can't think of a single Microsoft initiative other than Office (first developed for the Mac) that proved prescient.
    Microsoft Spot smartwatch 2004

    waverboyllama
  • Reply 16 of 39
    bb-15bb-15 Posts: 169member
    vonbrick said:
    Microsoft was the first major technology company (or first in line) who offered:
    • Touch interface tablet computing
    • Monthly music subscriptions
    • Smartphones
    • and more...
    yet Microsoft has CONSTANTLY cut themselves off at the knees when it comes to their consumer offerings using "left-brain" marketing and being too early to market with substandard or incapable design.  The Kinect is the latest in a long line of products from Redmond that get tossed because Microsoft can't figure out how to talk to the customers their developers need to justify the investment.  

    Until Microsoft figures out how to design for and talk to consumers who automatically think MICROSOFT=WINDOWS, they can be the first to market with the coolest technology or gadget and still fail every time.
    Being first doesn't matter if the company doesn't get the UI right and can't build an ecosystem. 
    So, Microsoft's failure in this area is not about marketing but about connecting to the consumer with the right tech and then developing that tech into a trusted ecosystem. 

    * With the touch interface; Microsoft, Palm and Apple (Newton) in the 1990s/early 2000s got the UI wrong by pushing the pen interface.
    - Jobs was right to promote the multi-finger touch UI which today dominates smaller device mobile computing, especially smartphones.
    * With music subscriptions, Microsoft could not settle on a mobile ecosystem and stick with that.
    The failure of the Zune, the Kin, the Microsoft Band, the repeated changes to the Windows Media player, the ending of Windows Mobile as well as Windows Phone 7 & 8 and now the entire Windows Phone line; all of those missteps mean there was zero momentum to build on Microsoft media software such as with a music service. 

    * Finally, the problem with the Kinect was that except for kids dancing games, the UI didn't work for a console. It was just a variation of the Sony EyeToy idea which also faded. Console users usually want to use game controllers.
    Again with Kinect, Microsoft got the UI wrong.  
     
    edited October 2017 watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 39
    Great article! Thanks

    I really appreciated the historical information.
    nhugheslolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 39
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    I told an iPhoney user how amazing it was that Apple shrunk the huge Kinect tech into a tiny centimeters-wide camera array over the time span of just 3 years! I added “I think the whole iPhone X is smaller than Kinect!”

    His response?
    ”I’m not surprised. Technology shrinks over time.” (Even though Kinect got larger in Microsoft's hands)






    "Not Impressed."


    edited October 2017 anton zuykovpatchythepiratepscooter63lolliverwatto_cobrafirelock
  • Reply 19 of 39
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    bb-15 said:
    vonbrick said:
    Microsoft was the first major technology company (or first in line) who offered:
    • Touch interface tablet computing
    • Monthly music subscriptions
    • Smartphones
    • and more...
    yet Microsoft has CONSTANTLY cut themselves off at the knees when it comes to their consumer offerings using "left-brain" marketing and being too early to market with substandard or incapable design.  The Kinect is the latest in a long line of products from Redmond that get tossed because Microsoft can't figure out how to talk to the customers their developers need to justify the investment.  

    Until Microsoft figures out how to design for and talk to consumers who automatically think MICROSOFT=WINDOWS, they can be the first to market with the coolest technology or gadget and still fail every time.
    Being first doesn't matter if the company doesn't get the UI right and can't build an ecosystem. 
    So, Microsoft's failure in this area is not about marketing but about connecting to the consumer with the right tech and then developing that tech into a trusted ecosystem. 

    * With the touch interface; Microsoft, Palm and Apple (Newton) in the 1990s/early 2000s got the UI wrong by pushing the pen interface.
    - Jobs was right to promote the multi-finger touch UI which today dominates smaller device mobile computing, especially smartphones.
    * With music subscriptions, Microsoft could not settle on a mobile ecosystem and stick with that.
    The failure of the Zune, the Kin, the Microsoft Band, the repeated changes to the Windows Media player, the ending of Windows Mobile as well as Windows Phone 7 & 8 and now the entire Windows Phone line; all of those missteps mean there was zero momentum to build on Microsoft media software such as with a music service. 

    * Finally, the problem with the Kinect was that except for kids dancing games, the UI didn't work for a console. It was just a variation of the Sony EyeToy idea which also faded. Console users usually want to use game controllers.
    Again with Kinect, Microsoft got the UI wrong.  
     
    Microsoft and Sony tried to hop on the Wii bandwagon and fell on their a**es.

    The problem was Nintendo had prepared 100% of their games while MS/Sony threw it at the wall hoping 100% of developers would jump on board.

    Also it didn't help that Microsoft completely LIED when they announced Kinect showing off MOVIES as gameplay that weren't even possible at the time(and even today) and promising this was their hardware and these "games"(movies) were coming soon.






    grangerfx said:
    The difference is that Apple has earned the trust of users while Microsoft has not. Apple fought off the FBI's demands for access to private encrypted data while Microsoft was actually paid by the NSA to provide access to private data of citizens via the Prism program. It was obvious from the start how the Kinect would be used to spy on everyone.

    The Xbox One was originally a spy machine that would keep Kinect on at all times. Both audio and video would listen even while the console was off and REQUIRED an internet connection at all times otherwise the console won't allow you to use it. Gamers protested until Microsoft supposedly removed the Kinect always-on feature.

    Considering all this bulls** their moronic fanbase bought the Xbox and never spoke of these things again.

    The spying had zero impact on fans it was the lack of games and function that killed Kinect.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 39
    Ofcourse Kinect is cancelled, they have evolved since then. Obviously AppleInsider wants to turn it into a sensational piece.  :D
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