May 21, 2013

Xbox One and Kinect 2 for the Playground of the Future

Xbox One and Kinect 2, Playground of the Future

The big news in tech today is the unveiling of the new Xbox One/Kinect 2 system.  For now, the video below might be the closest you'll get to the system.  Wired's senior editor, Peter Rubin had a chance to interview Scott Evans, of Microsoft, as he demonstrated the fascinating technical details in a family-room type setting.

Wired's interview of Scott Evans and demo of the new Xbox One and Kinect 2, using Active IR technology.

From what I learned, the new Kinect sensor has six times the fidelity of the previous version. Paired with the new Xbox One, it can do amazing things.  Engineers from around the world collaborated on this project, providing expertise in facial recognition, digital signal processing, speech recognition, machine learning, and computer vision.  The Xbox One is fueled by an 8-core x86 processor, supported by 8GB of RAM, which is sure to handle the hardest gamer's needs. It also includes a 500GB hard drive and an HD Blu-ray player.

The new system was designed to enhance the gaming/user experience. The 1080p camera provides a field of view that is 60 degrees larger than its  predecessor, and can handle a high level of detail.  It provides a better means of interpreting movement and orientation, and it processes skeleton and hand movements more precisely.  The system features "muscle man", a human-based physics model that is layered over the skeleton and depth map. It senses and calculating the forces the player uses while moving in a game. 

What I find interesting is that the camera can detect the player's pulse by measuring subtle changes of the skin that can't be perceived by the naked eye.  It also can quickly identify each player (it handles up to six), and identify facial expressions.  The active IR (infrared) system provides the system with better accuracy than the original Kinect. 

I wasn't able to find out much information regarding privacy issues with this system.  This is a concern, since it can sense your physiological responses, movement patterns, and facial expressions.  Over time, a good deal of very personal information would be gathered about each user. I shudder to think about the consequences if the data fell into the wrong hands.  

Possibilities for Special Needs Populations

I can see that the Xbox One + Kinect 2 system has the potential for games and other interactive applications for use in physical rehabilitation and fitness.  Since it can interpret facial expressions, it could also provide a way to support social skills learning among children and teens who have autism spectrum disorders.


Microsoft invests a good deal of attention to proof-of-concept projects that may or not become part of a commercial product.  Below is an example of IllumiRoom:

Hrvoje Benko, of Microsoft Research, discusses the IllumiRoom concept during an interview at CHI 2013.

Xbox One Website
The new Xbox One Kinect tracks your heart rate, happiness, hands and hollers
Matthew Panzarino, The Next Web, 5/22/13
Kinect 2 Full Video Walkthrough: The Xbox Sees You Like Never Before
Kyle Wagner, Gizmodo, 5/21/13
Hands-on with prototypes of the Xbox One and New Kinect Sensor
Ben Gilbert, engadget, 5/21/13
Efficient Human Pose Estimation from Single Depth Images
Shotton, J., Girshick, R., Fitzgibbon, A., Sharp, T., Cook, M., Finocchio, M., Moore, R., Kohli, P., Crinisi, A., Kipman, A., Blake, A.   Video
Consumer Depth Cameras for Computer Vision:  Research Topics and Applications
Fossati, A., Gall, J., Grabner, H., Ren, X., Konolige, K. (Eds.)
Xbox One: Microsoft's supergeeks reveal what's inside the hardware
Dean Takahashi, VentureBeat, 5/21/13
Next Xbox Will Face New Array of Rivals
Nick Wingfield, New York Times, 5/21/13

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