iFixit Opens Up Kinect, Likes What They See

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Millions of dollars and man-hours have gone into making Xbox Kinect a revolutionary input device that points the way to the future of gaming.   Microsoft would probably like to keep the Kinect recipe all to itself, but this is 2010 and things like that just don’t happen any more.

The iFixit website’s the home of open-source, user-generated repair manuals for high-end consumer electronics and they opened up the Kinect to check out what-all makes it tick.

Here’s some of what they found:

  • Four microphones: Given the strong emphasis on voice recognition in Kinect, this isn’t a huge surprise. Kinect calibrates its voice recognition against the ambient noise in the playspace and these bits are how it does it.
  • Two cameras: One measures depth-of-field and the other captures color information from the environment.
  • Prime Sense technology: Microsoft acquired this proprietary tech from an independent development firm. Kinect’s the only device that uses Prime Sense and this secret sauce makes it stand out from the garden variety webcams and phone cams that might have similar specs. Everything Kinect sees and hears gets run through a special chipset that parses the data in specific way and sends it back to the Xbox.
  • An accelerometer: This is an odd inclusion, since Kinect remains stationary during the play experience. Maybe the accelerometer tracks the speed of player movement or helps Kinect accurately map distance to the floor when it does its initial start-up, head-nod scan.

Granted, a teardown like this could help competitors cook up their own Kinect. But, it’s most likely that Microsoft is using its own research and the PrimeSense algorithms in such specific ways that knowing the hardware alone won’t provide the path to making Kinect wannabes. And remember, kids, trying to do what iFixit does will probably just break your Kinect and void the warranty. Don’t try this at home.