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12/20/2010
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Microsoft Prepping Kinect Upgrade

The firmware update would improve motion sensing accuracy and allow more data to pass through to the Xbox 360, according to reports.

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Microsoft is reportedly working on a firmware update to its wildly successful Kinect console that greatly improves the accuracy of its motion sensing and will allow more data to pass through the device to the Xbox 360 console.

On tap is a patch that will increase the camera's resolution to 640 x 480, up from 320 x 240 at 30 frames per second, according to the Eurogamer Web site. If the update occurs, the increase would effectively quadruple the sensor's accuracy and allow it to detect finger and hand rotation. Microsoft did not pump up the resolution at the outset to let multiple USB devices be used simultaneously, according to DailyTech.com.

Right now the Kinect's USB controller can transmit 35 MB of data but only uses 15 to 16 megabytes of bandwidth. Microsoft has not commented on the reported update, which was described as "eminently doable" by Rich Leadbetter, of the software development and consultancy Digital Foundry.

To free additional bandwidth, Microsoft would have to "disable or lower throughput of game installs running from USB flash drives,'' Leadbetter told Eurogamer. "The resolution coming out of the depth camera via PC is indeed 640 x 480, but it is uncertain just how accurate the camera's sensor is,'' he added.

However, industry observers say it remains to be seen how well Kinect will operate in the higher resolution mode and that, with four times the data, it might not work as effectively for gaming and that the lower resolution would be a better option for developers.

The firmware update is expected in the spring of next year.

Meanwhile, the Kinect is also doubling as a medical device and has been tested by researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland as a vehicle for reviewing radiological images, Ubergizmo reported.

In November Microsoft reported that one million Kinects had been sold in 10 days and was projecting it would sell five million by the end of the year.

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