After seven years on the market, Microsoft has finally pulled the plug on the Kinect camera. You can still pick up the hardware in stores but, once that stock is gone, they'll be tricky to find as Microsoft has officially ceased production.
At the risk of sounding callous, this is one of those instances when I hear about the death of a celebrity and my reaction is, "Oh, wait, they were still alive?" Microsoft never really put the muscle necessary behind the Kinect to make it a success and developers never really bought into the technology. Combine that with gamers who seemed to be over the whole "get off your couch to play" trend, and you've got the slow death of what was actually a pretty impressive piece of hardware.
In a recent interview with Co.Design, Kinect creator Alex Kipman and GM of Xbox Devices Marketing Matthew Lapsen gave some interesting insight into the history of the device. The first Kinect launched back in 2010 for the Xbox 360. The Nintendo Wii was all the rage back then and both Microsoft and Sony were left to play catch-up. PlayStation utilized their existing camera and the new Move motion controllers in response, but that kind of gaming never really took off on the PlayStation 3. As for the Kinect, Microsoft created a camera that didn't need any additional peripherals to track the player's movement. That seems like a solid concept, but neither developers nor consumers responded. The tracking could get touchy at times and the voice commands didn't always work but, again, it was the foundation for a pretty spiffy idea.
When the Xbox One launched, it came with a Kinect camera that, as it turns out, most people didn't really want. Again, not much effort was really put into the device post-launch and, as a result, it faded into obscurity.
According to the guys behind the hardware, the Kinect helped give birth to other technology, including the reality-augmenting Hololens and even the voice-commanded Cortana. While the latter seems to be doing well, we can't help but wonder what the future looks like for the former. Hololens barely comes up in conversation these days and we can't help but doubt if there's a market for the device, no matter how cool it may actually be.
In other words, if you really like using your Kinect paired with your Xbox One, you might want to run out and buy a spare sometime soon. Once they disappear from store shelves in the coming months, they'll be gone forever. It's always a bummer to see a promising piece of hardware ride off into the sunset, but it never really felt like Kinect was given much of a chance in the first place.