When Microsoft finally does make the move to the next generation, it won't be with just a new Xbox console. Kinect has been a huge success for the company, and when the Xbox 720 is released to the public, expect a revised version of the motion control peripheral to launch along side it.
Now, the first rumored Kinect 2 details have emerged and paint a picture of a device significantly more powerful than the current hardware.
Kinect games have gained a significant amount of sophistication over the past year, best exemplified by the peerless gestural mechanics of Kinect Sports: Season Two. Kinect voice recognition has seen improvement, too, and is set to be a major feature of the December 6th Xbox 360 dashboard update -- players will be able to use Kinect-powered voice search for marketplace items, Netflix and Hulu content, and more. Despite the strides made with Kinect over the past year, Kinect 2 promises to take the technology to bold new places.
Chief among Kinect 2 claims is that the device is so powerful and accurate that it can read players' lips. As current Kinect owners are well aware, if the games get too loud, Kinect doesn't always respond to voice commands. With Kinect 2's ability to read lips, that should no longer be a problem. But there is more than that: using a combination of facial and voice recognition, Kinect 2 can allegedly determine player emotions. Feeling frustrated by a particularly challenging boss encounter in, say, the Gears of War prequel? Kinect 2 will be able to tell -- a feature that developers could take advantage of, for instance, to balance the encounter's difficulty on the fly.
The Kinect 2 rumors, as reported by Eurogamer, come from an unnamed "development source" who singles out the current Kinect's USB interface as a major bottleneck for the hardware -- one that won't be shared by Kinect 2.
"It can be cabled straight through on any number of technologies that just take phenomenally high res data straight to the main processor and straight to the main RAM and ask, what do you want to do with it?"
Kinect 2 is expected to be bundled with the Xbox 720. Meanwhile, Microsoft has announced an early 2012 launch window for Kinect for Windows, which will feature a PC-specific version of the Kinect hardware.
Clearly, Microsoft considers Kinect a vital element of its plans going forward. The question is whether gamers who have so far held off on purchasing Kinect will be swayed by more powerful hardware. What do you think? And what do you think the gameplay implications of Kinect 2's features will be? Let us know in the comments below.
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