Kinect gets another shot at Microsoft Build

As "Project Kinect for Azure," the depth-sensing Xbox camera is back.

The Xbox One version of the Kinect camera. 
CNET/Sarah Tew

At Microsoft Build 2018, the company highlighted new technologies for developers, including one that may sound especially familiar to gamers.

Project Kinect for Azure brings back the Kinect camera, this time for software and AI developers. Azure is Microsoft's cloud computing platform for writing, testing and deploying applications. The company says the new Kinect will be a package of sensors, including a next-generation depth-sensing camera, with onboard computer hardware.


A new Kinect for Azure sensor. 


The Kinect brand dates back to 2010, when it launched as a motion-and-voice control system for the Xbox 360 console. It didn't exactly connect with gamers, but a Windows version, Kinect for Windows, was released in 2012. The Xbox One console got an upgraded version of Kinect (pictured above) when it launched in 2013.

But the Kinect was discontinued in stages: the Windows version in 2015, original Xbox 360 version in 2016 and the Xbox One version in 2017.

Now that Kinect is coming back. "Project Kinect for Azure empowers new scenarios for developers working with ambient intelligence," Microsoft says. "Combining Microsoft's industry defining Time of Flight sensor with additional sensors all in a small, power-efficient form factor, Project Kinect for Azure will leverage the richness of Azure AI to dramatically improve insights and operations."


During his keynote, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella expanded on the idea of Azure AI with his introduction of a speech SDK, allowing hardware makers to easily use Microsoft's speech recognition AI on a wider variety of products. This comes alongside a smart speaker hardware reference kit created by Chinese robot/AI company Roobo. The hope is that this new software/hardware combo can assist speech recognition even in low-volume scenarios with a lot of ambient noise. 

The company has posted more information about the new Kinect on its LinkedIn site, here