Kinect occupies a strange place in the tech world. It’s a nearly universally beloved piece of technology that was both ahead of its time and very much of its time, all at once. It felt — for a moment — like it was going to revolutionize gaming, but much like the Wii, proved to be — at least temporarily — an evolutionary dead end.
In 2013, Apple purchased PrimeSense, the Israeli startup behind the Kinect technology, using it as the foundation for iOS’s Face ID.
This wasn’t, however, the end of Kinect. The peripheral build up provided a second life among DIYers. A low-cost, widely available stereoscopic camera was an immensely powerful tool that unlocked genuinely exciting technology. The 3D camera kit has also become a mainstay in research labs for the past decades. I can’t tell you how many robotics projects I’ve seen that rely on the tech.
The Kinect for Xbox One was discontinued in 2017. But Microsoft granted the hardware another chance two years later, this time as a development tool. The Azure Kinect Developer Kit embraced exactly what the gaming peripheral had informally become.
“Project Kinect for Azure unlocks countless new opportunities to take advantage of Machine Learning, Cognitive Services and IoT Edge,” the company wrote at the time. “We envision that Project Kinect for Azure will result in new AI solutions from Microsoft and our ecosystem of partners, built on the growing range of sensors integrating with Azure AI services.”
But that, too, shall pass. Microsoft announced last week that it has “made the decision to end production of Azure Kinect Developer Kit.” The company says it will continue to support the developer kit, while pointing interested parties in the direction of Michigan-based firm Orbbec. The company produces the Femto time of flight 3D camera, which also offers an SDK for developers.
“This week, Orbbec launched the Femto Bolt,” Microsoft notes. “The product is a partner option that customers who are interested in a solution like Azure Kinect Developer Kit can consider. Orbbec’s camera offerings use the same depth camera module as Azure Kinect Developer Kit, and developers can migrate their existing applications using Azure Kinect Developer Kit to Orbbec’s cameras using the API bridge provided as part of their SDK.”