Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kinect History

Kinect was first announced on June 1, 2009 at E3 2009 under the code name "Project Natal". Following in Microsoft's tradition of using cities as code names, "Project Natal" was named after the Brazilian city of Natal as a tribute to the country by Microsoft director Alex Kipman, who incubated the project, and who is from Brazil. The name Natal was also chosen because the word natal means "of or relating to birth", reflecting Microsoft's view of the project as "the birth of the next generation of home entertainment".
Four demos were shown to showcase Kinect when it was revealed at Microsoft's E3 2009 Media Briefing: Ricochet, Paint Party, Milo & Kate, and "Mega Ring Ring, Mega Ring Ring". A demo based on Burnout Paradise was also shown outside of Microsoft's media briefing. The skeletal mapping technology shown at E3 2009 was capable of simultaneously tracking four people, with a feature extraction of 48 skeletal points on a human body at 30 Hz.
It was rumored that the launch of Project Natal would be accompanied with the release of a new Xbox 360 console (as either a new retail configuration, a significant design revision and/or a modest hardware upgrade). Microsoft dismissed the reports in public, and repeatedly emphasized that Project Natal would be fully compatible with all Xbox 360 consoles. Microsoft indicated that the company considers it to be a significant initiative, as fundamental to the Xbox brand as Xbox Live, and with a launch akin to that of a new Xbox console platform. Kinect was even referred to as a "new Xbox" by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at a speech for the Executives' Club of Chicago. When asked if the introduction will extend the time before the next-generation console platform is launched (historically about 5 years between platforms), Microsoft corporate vice president Shane Kim reaffirmed that the company believes that the life cycle of the Xbox 360 will last through 2015 (10 years).

During Kinect's development, project team members experimentally adapted numerous games to Kinect-based control schemes to help evaluate usability. Among these games were Beautiful Katamari and Space Invaders Extreme, which were demonstrated at the Tokyo Game Show in September 2009. According to creative director Kudo Tsunoda, adding Kinect-based control to pre-existing games would involve significant code alterations, making it unlikely for Kinect features to be added through software updates.
Although the sensor unit was originally planned to contain a microprocessor that would perform operations such as the system's skeletal mapping, it was revealed in January 2010 that the sensor would no longer feature a dedicated processor. Instead processing would be handled by one of the processor cores of the Xbox 360's Xenon CPU. According to Alex Kipman, the Kinect system consumes about 10-15% of the Xbox 360's computing resources. However, in November, Alex Kipman made a statement that "the new motion control tech now only uses a single-digit percentage of the Xbox 360's processing power, down from the previously stated ten to 15 percent." A number of observers commented that the computational load required for Kinect makes the addition of Kinect functionality to pre-existing games through software updates even less likely, with Kinect-specific concepts instead likely to be the focus for developers using the platform.
On March 25, Microsoft sent out a save the date flier for an event called the "World Premiere 'Project Natal' for the Xbox 360 Experience" at E3 2010. The event took place on the evening of Sunday, June 13, 2010 at the Galen Center. The event featured a performance by Cirque du Soleil. It was announced that the system would officially be called Kinect, a portmanteau of the words "kinetic" and "connect", which describe key aspects of the initiative. Microsoft also announced that the North American launch date for Kinect will be November 4, 2010. Despite previous statements dismissing speculation of a new Xbox 360 to accompany the launch of new control system, Microsoft announced at E3 2010 that it was introducing a redesigned Xbox 360, complete with a Kinect-ready connector port. In addition, on July 20, 2010, Microsoft announced a Kinect bundle with a redesigned Xbox 360, to be available with the Kinect launch.

Microsoft has an advertising budget of US$500 million for the launch of Kinect, a larger sum than the investment at launch of the Xbox console. Plans involve featuring Kinect on the YouTube homepage, advertisements on Disney's and Nickelodeon's digital publications as well as during Dancing with the Stars and Glee. Print ads are to be published in People Magazine and InStyle, while brands such as Pepsi, Kellogg's and Burger King will also carry Kinect advertisements. A major Kinect event was also organized in Times Square, where Kinect was promoted via the many billboards.
On October 19, before the Kinect launch, Microsoft advertised Kinect at The Oprah Winfrey Show by giving free Xbox 360s and Kinect sensors to the people who were in the audience. Later they also gave away Kinect bundles with Xbox 360's to the audiences of The Ellen Show and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
On October 23, Microsoft held a pre-launch party for Kinect in Beverly Hills. The party was hosted by Ashley Tisdale and was attended by soccer star David Beckham and his three sons, Cruz, Brooklyn, and Romeo. Guests were treated to sessions with Dance Central and Kinect Adventures, followed by Tisdale having a Kinect voice chat with Nick Cannon. On November 1, 2010, Burger King started giving away a free Kinect bundle "every 15 minutes". The contest ended on November 28, 2010.