NASA using Oculus Rift with Xbox One’s Kinect to control robots

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab team is testing a combination of the Xbox One Kinect sensor and the Oculus Rift headset to control robots:

Using the new Xbox One Kinect sensor, we are able to manipulate the JACO robot arm in real time. By combining position tracking from the Kinect and rotational tracking with the Oculus, we provide a first-person view for the operator. Future work will include integrating sensor array data into the scene and translating our research to the Robonaut 2 humanoid on the International Space Station.

From the research side of things, this is a great proof-of-concept to show another application of consumer technology in a research environment. This sort of thing could be applied anywhere humans shouldn’t be going but autonomous or controller-operated robots aren’t quite nimble enough to work. It could also decrease the need extra-vehicular activities during space missions or even future landings on the Moon and Mars.



Apple Buys Kinect maker PrimeSense

Deal reportedly worth $360 million

Apple TV

Apple has confirmed the acquisition of PrimeSense, the Israeli-based motion sensor company.

The business is best known for providing the sensors for Microsoft’s Kinect peripheral for the Xbox 360 although it did not contribute to the new Kinect model found in the recently released Xbox One.

The deal has been rumoured for some time, with some reports suggesting Apple paid  $360 million for the firm.

“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” said a spokesperson.

Speaking to the BBC, Nitin Bhat of consultant firm Frost & Allen said Apple wants to bring its business up to date with current tech trends.

“Usage of gesture-based, touch-less control of devices is one of the big mega trends in the industry right now,” he said.

“From Apple’s perspective it looks like an attempt to make its current gadgets a lot more attractive by offering such a feature on them. It could also look to incorporate this technology in future portfolio of devices which could include an Apple TV.”


Microsoft shoots down report of Kinect-based ad targeting

Xbox One maker working on multiple fronts to counter idea that camera will be used to gather marketing data.

Thanks in part to a number of policy changes, there’s no shortage of misconceptions floating around about the Xbox One. While the company hasn’t always been aggressive about correcting them, one exception to that seems to be misconceptions about consumer privacy.

Over the weekend, Ad Age reported on an appearance by Microsoft corporate VP of marketing and strategy Yusuf Mehdi at the Association of National Advertisers Masters of Marketing Conference in Phoenix. The story likened Xbox One to a “TV that watches you,” suggesting the Kinect camera could be used to gather data about users, including how they react to ads on TV.

“It’s early days, but we’re starting to put that together in more of a unifying way, and hopefully at some point we can start to offer that to advertisers broadly,” Mehdi was quoted as saying in the original report.

In response, Microsoft denied the report to All Things D, saying the quote was referring not to Kinect but to the connection between the Xbox One and Microsoft’s SmartGlass mobile app. So much like developers can create a game that runs on the console and interacts with SmartGlass, advertisers might be able to connect their efforts between the two platforms.

Ad Age has since included Microsoft’s clarification to the story, but added that marketers in the audience had also interpreted the remark to mean information harvested by the console could be used for market research.

“Microsoft does not have plans to target ads or content based on any data Kinect collects,” the company told Ad Age, “and we will not in the future unless someone chooses to allow us to do so. Even then, we would give them a clear explanation of what is collected and how it will be used.”

Microsoft is also using other channels to address privacy concerns. Xbox Live director of programming Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb put the word out on Twitter, saying the Ad Age story was in need of correction and adding, “We do not collect information to share or sell. You are fully in control of your personal data. Your privacy is important to us.”

Last week, the company’s director of product planning Albert Panello took to the NeoGAF message boards to clarify Microsoft’s plans for Xbox One advertising. Panello acknowledged concerns that the Kinect could be used to identify users’ engagement for the purposes of targeting ads. Panello said nobody in the company is working on that, and if such functionality were to ever be introduced, users would have control over it.

“We take a lot of heat around stuff we’ve done and I can roll with it,” Panello said. “Some of it is deserved. But preventing Kinect from being used inappropriately is something the team takes very seriously.”

This is not the first time privacy issues have arisen with regard to Xbox One and Kinect. Microsoft had originally said that the Kinect camera was required for the Xbox One to work, but after some voiced privacy concerns, the company said users would be allowed to disable Kinect functionality.



Microsoft Defends Kinect 2 Inclusion, “I think our games are better”


With the PlayStation 4′s price set at $399 (PlayStation Camera and PlayStation Move controllers sold separately), and the Xbox One at $499 including Kinect, there’s going to be a big $100 price gap when both systems battle it out on store shelves this holiday.

While we’ve already covered Jack Tretton’s thoughts on releasing the PlayStation 4 without a camera, Xbox Senior Director Albert Penello told GameSpot if he thinks the Xbox One bundling motion controls is an advantage over the PS4:

Obviously I can’t speak to what Sony’s doing. I don’t know what their plans are with their camera. But I think, they had this with Move, we had it with Kinect versus Nintendo with the Wii. When you bundle it, you get more innovation, you get better and more interesting types of experiences; so I do think that bundling it in every console, and the fact that technology is so much more advanced than what anybody else is doing; yeah, I do think it is an advantage.

Then, Albert talked about how they’ll be showing consumers that it’s worth spending the extra $100 on an Xbox One:

It’s up to us to prove that it’s worth $100 more. I think it is. I think we do more. I think our games are better. I think as people start to experience Kinect and see what it can do using voice, I think that’s better. I think the ability to have an all-in-one system where you can plug in the TV, that’s better. I think we’ll have a better online service.

I just believe that we’re going to have a better system. $100, when you’re talking $400 vs. $500 [shrugs shoulders]. I don’t believe it’s going to be the deal-killer.

Now that we’re just two months away from the release of both of these systems, expect things to get even more interesting as each day passes.

Do you think Microsoft has proven that the Xbox One is worth $100 or more? Let us know in the comments below.



Xbox One won’t require Kinect after all

Microsoft’s console will still work when depth camera is unplugged; user settings can also disable functionality

Xbox One won't require Kinect

The Xbox One as it will launch is a very different machine than the Xbox One as Microsoft originally envisioned it. In an IGN interview with Xbox corporate VP Marc Whitten posted today, the company revealed that yet another complaint levied against the system–that it would require the use of a Kinect motion-sensing camera to function–is being addressed.

Whitten acknowledged, “like online, the console will still function if Kinect isn’t plugged in, although you won’t be able to use any feature or experience that explicitly uses the sensor.” That means no powering the system with voice control, or using gestures to navigate menus. Additionally, users will have the ability to turn the sensor off through the system settings, which Whitten said would prevent it from collecting any information (although its IR functionality will still work).

The backtracking on the Kinect requirement is the latest in a series of about-faces for Microsoft since it first took the wraps off the Xbox One several months ago. First the company changed the system’s online check-in requirements, as well as restrictions on playing used games. Then it changed its stance on allowing independent developers to self-publish their games through Xbox Live Arcade, and most recently, the company revealed it would include a headset with the basic hardware after previously confirming that it wouldn’t.