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11.10.10

KINect’s Fate Could be Similar to KIN’s

Posted in Hardware, Marketing, Microsoft at 2:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Splash mountain

Summary: Microsoft’s actions suggest that it is losing a lot of money on KINect, so there is no guarantee that the project will exist for a long time to come

M

ICROSOFT advertises KINect like advertising budget restraints have been abolished. According to a source we cited recently, close to half a billion dollars are spent just marketing this thing, which is not even in the hands of many people yet (will it ever?). We talk about it a lot in our show, TechBytes, especially because Tim — an Xbox 360 owner — keeps track of the product and ridicules the KINect in his blog this week:

I think you will be the guinea pigs and we will be reading about issues you have with the device in the coming months.

When/if one cancels out all the marketing noise, it becomes evidence that KINect has many problems which we covered in posts such as:

“Hacker unshackles Kinect from Xbox,” The Register is reporting:

An amateur hacker claims to have freed Microsoft’s Kinect from the Xbox, a feat that allows him to control the the just-released motion-tracking game device from his Windows PC.

The claim was documented in two videos released over the weekend by a member of the Natural User Interface Group. In one, Kinect’s motorized-tilt is shown being controlled with the moveup and movedown buttons of his Windows 7 PC. Normally, the movements can only be tracked when Kinect is connected to an Xbox 360 game console.

A second video shows the Kinect outputting color and depth data to the hacker’s PC.

By themselves, the videos don’t prove that the Kinect has been completely rooted, but they suggest that the NUI Group member AlexP is well on his way. The videos surfaced a few days after Adafruit Industries, a seller of DIY electronics kits, offered a $2,000 bounty to the first person who published open-source drivers for the Kinect.

There is a debate over whether Microsoft makes money from KINect or just gives it away with subsidy, thus incurring a financial loss. Either way, only time will tell if KINect too will end up in the pile of dead products from Microsoft. In the past 3 years Microsoft has killed nearly 60 products (those which we documented anyway) and even Apple is starting to kill some of its products. Here is what Pogson said about Apple exiting the servers market:

The first Apple server I saw was a box on the doorstep of the school left during Christmas Break. I was not in charge of receiving parcels so I put it inside and left it there. I went in and found we had not Internet access. The fools at Head Office sent us an e-mail, during Christmas Break. I struggled to find what was wrong locally. Everything seemed fine. Finally, I phoned Head Office and was informed that the box contained our new router which Head Office was allowing to connect to the WAN and no others… Sigh. I reminded them about Christmas Break… “Oh!” the voice said… Anyway, I plugged in that server and had DHCP and a route once again. That was the year I first installed GNU/Linux on top of that other OS. I have had a stomache-churning response to seeing Apple servers ever since. Fortunately there are not many out there. Now there will be fewer over time. Too bad I will retire soon. The world is becoming a better place.

Marketing is not enough for success. It can help create initial hype (like KINect’s and Silverlight’s, or most famously Vista with the “show us your wow” campaign), but if the products fail in practice (Xbox 360 RRoD for example) then it’s all doomed to fail sooner or later. Marketing is deception and it’s a short-term investment because people cannot be deceived indefinitely.

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5 Comments

  1. TemporalBeing said,

    November 10, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Gravatar

    Personally, I think MS’s KINect and even Sony’s PSMove Motion Controller are ultimately doomed to failure.

    For the Wii, the WiiMote and even the Nunchuk were there from the start – everyone could depend on there being at least the WiiMote if not both.

    However, Microsoft and Sony are both trying to retrofit their versions of Nintendo’s technology to their systems without releasing new systems. So now game developers must either plan to not use them – or at least not require them – or they must require their users to purchase the $100-$150 USD peripherals as well. Thus a single game that requires it may cost from $120-$200 just to use the game. In this economy, game makers are not likely to force that choice.

    So that is failure for them right there before one even starts to look at the technical issues that users are going to face.

    For Sony – it’s tracking a little ball that lights up in the visible light spectrum. Sunlight is going to be a very very big problem, as will flashlights, and halogen and fluorescent light bulbs.

    For Microsoft – it’s trying to track people and their movements. Mind you have different people can look – from the scrawny teenager to the overweight wonders. Let’s not forget people with injuries or other physical disorders and how that can affect movement.

    And for both of them, you have the issue of people getting in the way as they walk in front of the user, even briefly. Add the issues above, and you could be in for quite an interesting game play – the person carries a flashlight as they walk through, blinding or misleading the camera, and now your race car drives into the wall.

    Disclaimer: No, I have not used either. I don’t own an XBox of any kind or a Playstation of any kind either. This is just my thoughts on the technical aspects of these devices. Sony and Microsoft probably did some work to minimize what I am talking about, but it would be extremely hard, if not impossible, to entirely eliminate it.

    NotZed Reply:

    Tracking a glowing ball is actually relatively easy – and reliable, and fast. There’s a good reason it is a sphere (possibly why spheres are used for mocap). Also remember it is infra-red so it’s a very bright ball to track, and the accelerometers can be used to qualify and clean up the data or even to approximate it reasonably well when the ball is obscured.

    The kinect thing is just so much more complicated with far more processing required. The lag is hidden by software guessing what you’re intentions are. There’s just so much more that can go wrong/guess wrong/not work at all/or just not be very fun. Even the eyetoy could handle (multiple) people overlapping simply – since it wasn’t trying to model their skeleton or even identify individuals, and this seems completely impossible for *any* kinect game.

    TemporalBeing Reply:

    Even if it is in the infrared, while that is a little easier than the visible light spectrum – it’s still not a very easy thing. I work with cameras and infrared lasers all the time. Sun light is a big issue – it can quickly blot out or obscure the entire image such as to make the data useless.

    Also you have the safety issue with infrared as the eye does not protect itself very well against it. More of an issue with lasers than a general infrared lightbulb, but exposure time to it could be an issue. Hope Sony is willing to start taking “PSMove blinded me” lawsuits if they really are using infrared.

  2. NotZed said,

    November 11, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Gravatar

    Kinect will probably out-do the eye-toy, if only because there will be more games for it (and a truckload of cash in marketing). I guess a failure is relative – eye-toy was an experiment (I suppose?) and never expected to sell massively and probably did ok, on the other hand it seems to be M$’s final roll of the dice to broaden the xbox ‘hard’ core customer base. $500m is a lot of advertising. Can’t really tell if the ps move is just a me too thing or expected to sell systems.

    Still, reviews like this probably point out the main issue:

    http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2010/11/parents-xbox-kinect/

    i.e. Complexity. It’s hard to setup properly, you have to stand in fairly specific location, and a little unintuitive to use. A small room or a piece of furniture or moving too fast or even holding stuff all throw it out. If a sizeable fraction of the families who tear one of these open on xmas morning end up with swearing or crying children when some little thing stops it working it could sink like a stone. The weak copy-cat games don’t help much either – although it’s hard to see what else it is capable of, i.e. can it really do a lot more than the eye toy, or just do what the eye toy did but a bit (or somewhat) better?

    It’s interesting enough hardware … for research/tech demo purposes, but it doesn’t seem to be at the idiot-proof level required of the mass-market.

    The comments on the wired blog are telling – e.g. pointing out ‘foolish’ things like being too close to the wall, the light too bright, or shiny things on the walls. These are things that different in everyones lounge room and you’d expect it to cope with quite a range before failing catastrophically which it seems to.

    I’ve no plans to get a ps move for my ps3, and i haven’t heard any of the half dozen mates with one even mention it.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    The few people who bought “KIN” (503 people according to Gruber) are getting rid of them on eBay http://shop.ebay.com/?_from=R40&_trksid=m570&_nkw=kin&_sacat=See-All-Categories

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