Is it the end of an era? Microsoft has finally decided to discontinue the Kinect, a device that has had a rollercoaster journey.

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Microsoft has made an announcement that is causing ripples in the gaming and 3D scanning communities. The tech giant is finally, probably, almost certainly discontinuing the beloved Kinect.

For those unfamiliar, the Kinect was a depth camera originally developed for use with the Xbox gaming console. Its purpose was to detect a player’s physical movements in front of the console and integrate them into the game. You could imagine someone throwing a virtual ball by simply moving their arms. It was an innovative concept that captured people’s imaginations almost a decade ago. However, despite its initial promise, the Kinect failed to gain the traction Microsoft had hoped for.

But here’s where things get interesting. While the Kinect may have fallen short as a gaming peripheral, it found unexpected success within the 3D community. The Kinect’s depth camera proved to be a very inexpensive and widely available tool for creating 3D models. How? By emitting a matrix pattern of infrared beams and detecting the reflections, the Kinect could determine the precise distance to each “pixel”, effectively creating a 3D rendering. Third-party developers latched onto this capability and used Microsoft’s development kit to turn the Kinect into a 3D scanner. Popular software tools like Skanect emerged, allowing users to sweep the Kinect over a subject, capturing multiple depth views that could then be meshed together to form a complete 3D model.

Microsoft never intended for the Kinect to be a 3D scanner, but it inadvertently became one. However, the company initially discontinued the Kinect in early 2018 due to its lackluster adoption. Yet, just a year and a half later, Microsoft revived the device for use with computer vision and speech models through its development kit. It seemed like a second chance for the Kinect.

But now, in 2023, it appears that Microsoft has finally, probably, discontinued the Kinect for good. This doesn’t come as a surprise, considering the rise of highly effective 3D scanning solutions and AI-based image software. These newer technologies have made the Kinect obsolete, as they can perform similar scanning feats without the need for expensive hardware.

So, whether this is truly the end of the Kinect or not, one thing is clear—it had a fascinating journey. From its initial promise as a gaming accessory to its unexpected rebirth as a 3D scanner, the Kinect has left its mark in the tech world. And even though it may no longer have a place in Microsoft’s lineup, its impact will not be forgotten.

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