Microsoft: Rumored Kinect update already happened

Kinect, Microsoft’s motion-controlled Xbox 360 video game accessory, has already received an update that is currently making the rumor rounds, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft Representative Chris Newton said the quiet Kinect update quadrupled the sensor’s accuracy and allowed Kinect to recognize finger movements and wrist angles with games that incorporate the new patch.

He said the update, which was rumored to be released in the next few weeks, was actually integrated right before Christmas.

“It was prior to Christmas, and it’s already gone through,” Newton said.

Newton said the increase in accuracy will occur by modifying Kinect’s intake of frames per second and by changing the resolution between the sensor’s two cameras.

The depth sensor used by Kinect is currently established at a limit of 30 frames per second, and its maximum resolution is 320-by-240 pixels. The update has effectively altered the peak resolution to 640-by-480 pixels, which allows Kinect to detect diminutive details concerning hand positioning, successfully quadrupling its accuracy.

He said the update affects currently released Kinect games by “making them  better and more accurate.”

The update will also allow video game developers to be more precise with their games.

“[Developers] will make their upcoming games better,” he said.

Kinect’s technical qualities are created by firmware, and thus can be added to and upgraded frequently and automatically without having to physically modify the sensor itself — which is why no one noticed when the rumored update became real.

At the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft announced the company will incorporate the Xbox 360 Avatar feature with Kinect.

The Xbox 360 Avatar feature will make a player’s avatar more realistic by allowing Kinect to recognize facial expressions and follow the player’s eyes, and will include the recently released finger and hand rotation update.

At CES it was also announced that Kinect would be receiving integration with Netflix, allowing users to command the program by voice and hand gestures alone.

The updates will be free for Xbox LIVE gold subscribers and is expected to be released in the spring.

Microsoft was unable to give an exact date of the upcoming Kinect updates in development announced at CES.

“We’re constantly working to expand and improve on experiences for Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE,” said Xbox 360 Representative Alyssa Odle in an e-mail.

Reach the reporter at tdmcknig@asu.edu