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Report: Software update to boost Kinect's camera

A rumored software update for Microsoft's Kinect is said to be bringing a larger video resolution that could result in enhanced body tracking.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
2 min read
Microsoft's Kinect
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Microsoft is said to be working on a software update to Kinect's camera system that will improve the console add-on's capabilities at detecting more subtle human gestures.

Eurogamer, which is sourcing the report, says that the update centers around increasing the camera resolution in the Kinect's depth sensor from 320x240 to 640x480, a move Eurogamer says would enable the Kinect to potentially pick up things like finger and wrist movements.

The Kinect system is currently able to pick up and track 48 points on each player's body, though Microsoft's algorithms treat the hands as a single, solid pointing device within the system's natural user interface. This has led developers like the Microsoft-owned Rare to add extra "across the body" follow-through movements to its Kinect Sports title to emulate ball spin in its bowling mini-game.

As part of the rumored update, Microsoft engineers are said to be working to increase the throughput of the Xbox 360's USB connections, up from a reported 15-16MB per second to what will be closer to the ports' 35MB/s limit. Compression of the Kinect's signal is also said to be getting rejiggered in order to trim down how much data needs to get piped through. This is especially important given that an increased resolution of the image signal lends itself to a much larger stream than the current version.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Besides the possibility of improved visual acuity, a larger video stream could improve a number of other Xbox features, including the quality of textures captured by the camera within games, and the VideoKinect chat application that is enabled once the Kinect hardware is plugged in. This could also end up being a nice business hook for the hardware, given Microsoft's plans to make the Kinect compatible with its Lync communications service, as it outlined in the tool's launch announcement last month.

Eurogamer is not providing any timeline of when the software update would be released.