Next Xbox to require Kinect connection, game installs

Microsoft logoAs Sony and Microsoft both start showing signs that their next generation of consoles will be revealed soon, we're getting in to the heavy-duty rumor-mongering season. The latest credible rumor comes from a well-informed-sounding source going by the handle SuperDaE (by way of Kotaku). You may remember him as the one who tried to sell an apparently genuine, codenamed "Durango" development kit on eBay before being shut down by Microsoft. He has new information he claims is from white papers intended to prepare developers to work on the new system.

According to Kotaku's report, the next Xbox will integrate a new version of the Kinect not as an optional motion-control accessory but as a required peripheral included with every system that "must be plugged in and calibrated for the console to even function." That would seem to raise some obvious privacy concerns, and it strikes us as an unnecessary power and processing drain for games that don't use the depth-sensing camera. On the other hand, packaging a new Kinect with every system would let designers create motion and voice controls for their games without worrying about fragmenting the market (though it still seems odd it would have to be plugged in at all times).

Microsoft Kinect

The new Kinect will reportedly improve its tech specs over the current model, as has been widely reported and assumed—just not as much as you might think. The 3D camera's depth will only have a depth-sensing resolution of 512×424 according to the new report. That's a rather modest improvement over the 320×240 resolution in the original Kinect and well below the "hundredths of a millimeter" tracking promised by devices like the Leap Motion. Still, SuperDaE claims the new Kinect will be able to detect thumbs and open/closed hands, and it will sport a wider viewing angle for easier calibration. The new Kinect will also have an improved 1920×1080 2D camera and the ability to track up to six players at once, according to the report, with slightly more points of skeletal articulation on each player.

Kotaku's report also suggests that the next Xbox will be the first console to require mandatory software installation to a 500GB hard drive, a rumor that fits with reports that discs sold for the system will be one-time use affairs. Don't worry about sitting through a long installation process, though. Games will reportedly be split into discrete sections so the installation can take place as the game is being played off the disc.

Microsoft's next system will also have increased multitasking capabilities, according to the report. Rather than simply running a light system-level OS to operate things like chat and achievement tracking, users will be able to run apps like Twitter while a game is running or even suspend a game to use another app without losing their place.

While there's no word on backward compatibility with Xbox 360 software in the report, Xbox 360 controllers reportedly won't work with the new system, owing to a "new wireless technology" used by the evolved controllers.

As far as pure hardware power, the new report largely echoes previous rumors about the system's power, with an eight-core CPU operating alongside a DirectX 11.x+ GPU and 8GB of DDR3 memory. This setup should be technically able to run 1080p games in stereoscopic 3D, but it might not be able to handle that resolution and frame buffering for today's more complex games, let alone the kinds of games we'll see in coming years.

Of course, we can't put too much stock in anything in this report until it's confirmed by Microsoft. With Sony widely expected to officially kick off the race on February 20, we might not have to wait too much longer for Microsoft's response.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: game consoles, Kinect, Microsoft, Xbox One

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