Microsoft’s Kinect, the recent motion-capturing upgrade to its popular Xbox 360 gaming console, has won the hearts and minds of gamers all over world. In addition to some impressive third-party hacks, open source developers have noticed a few peculiarities about the device.
Kinect ships with a stated resolution of 320 x 240, and captures motion at 30 frames per second. Some users who have hooked Kinect up to a standard PC have noted that the hardware itself seems much more capable, and can capture video at a resolution of at least 640 x 480 – which is four times the limit that Microsoft currently uses.
Microsoft has reportedly said that the limit is currently in place due to the USB interface that Kinect uses. Real-world performance limits the transfer of data through the bus to roughly 35 MB/s. It currently uses a little less than half that, since the console is capable of using multiple USB devices at one time (such as controllers, though using wired controllers simultaneously with a Kinect accessory is unlikely).
All this means is that with a simple software update, Microsoft could instantly update Kinect and force it to use the original 640 x 480 resolution. That spec bump would enable the cameras to detect individual fingers as well as hand rotation – granting the Xbox 360 substantially finer control for gesture recognition.
It’s said that Kinect needs roughly 20 MB/s for the 640 x 480 stream from both cameras (Kinect uses both an RGB and an infrared camera), so if Microsoft can compress or otherwise alleviate some of the traffic, upgrading the Kinect’s firmware is inevitable.