Microsoft’s Albert Penello Explains Why Kinect is “Integral” to the Xbox One Experience and More

on October 12, 2013 6:53 AM

Microsoft’s messages on whether Kinect is necessary or not to enjoy the upcoming Xbox One has been slightly confusing. To add even more confusion  Popular Mechanics named the console within “The 10 Breakthrough Products of 2013” mentioning the controversial camera as “integral” to the operation of the console. This, of course, sparked further debate on whether that means that it’s needed or not.

Microsoft Albert Penello came to the Rescue on NeoGaf to explain what that really means:

Again, semantics. But here’s my analogy: Is a controller “integral” to the Xbox 360? That depends on what you want to do. I have an Xbox 360 in a spare room with only a Harmony Remote attached. I don’t play games on it, I have a roaming account and I use it only to watch video apps. Works perfectly well and it’s never had a controller bound to it. So the controller isn’t technically “integral” unless you want to do something that needs it.

Analogy holds for Kinect. You can do a ton with the system without Kinect plugged in, and we support that scenario. However, you will lose some features if it’s not plugged in, you’ll lose some conveniences. And of course, there will be some games where you need to have Kinect. So, is it “integral” or not? Depends on what you want to do. System will do more if it’s plugged in, but if all you want is non-Kinect gaming, no voice switching of games and apps, no instant record features… then you can use the system without it.

But does Microsoft itself consider it “integral” to the Xbox One experience? It looks like they do, as explained in a further post when pressed by the ever-inquisitive NeoGaf users.

See above. That’s where I disagree. We *do* consider it to be integral to the system. Just because it can optionally be unplugged, doesn’t mean it’s not essential to the experience. In the same way that you and I agree a controller is “integral” to the system, but the machine can function without one.

“required to function” =/= “required for completeness of the experience”

From Penello’s explanation, it looks like you won’t get much out of the console if you plan on keeping the new Kinect nicely packed in its box. As a bonus, though, he also gave a nice technical explanation on how the camera is able to see in “total darkness” as mentioned by Popular Mechanics.

We can actually function in total room darkness because the IR sensor (not to be confused with IR blaster) actually emits its own light. So you can be in a pitch black room and the sensor could still identify you.

That’s a technical point, because practically, as stated, you’ll likely have the TV and other ambient light when you’re gaming or watching TV. The point is that unlike Kinect 1, which relies on a low-res RGB camera for identity, Kinect 2 uses both and HD RGB camera and a lighting independent IR sensor for facial detection. So all this auto sign-in and multi-user stuff we’ve talked about works so much better than it does on Xbox 360.

That definitely looks like great tech, and you can see how it actually works in the videos included in this post from a couple weeks ago.

So, what about you? Do you consider Kinect “integral” to your Xbox experience? If you plan to get the console, are you going to use it extensively or as little as possible?

 /  Executive News Editor
Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.
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