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November 25, 2013

Apple Confirms PrimeSense Acquisition, Price Rumored at $360M

Kinect

As we reported last week, Apple has acquired PrimeSense – an Israel-based company whose 3D sensor technology previously found its way into Microsoft's Kinect device, among other products (many, many products, including a healthcare-themed robot, Asus' Xtion Pro PC-based motion-sensing device, and the quaint little floor-projected interactive displays you often see in shopping malls and the lot).

So, what's new? Well, last week, Apple's acquisition lived in mere rumor-land. This week, Apple has officially gone on the record to confirm that, yes, the company has acquired PrimeSense. And in typical Apple fashion, that's all the company is saying at this point.

As first reported by AllThingsD, an Apple spokeswoman confirmed the deal with reporters Mike Isaac and John Paczkowski. Sadly, she didn't have all that much to say beyond that, save for the fact that, "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," she said.

There you have it.

According to undisclosed sources speaking to AllThingsD's reporters, the deal allegedly went down for right around $360 million. That's quite a bit higher than the early estimates that put it around $280-$300 million or so, and higher still than the last batch of rumors that spoke of a $345 million price tag.

So, what does Apple get for its cash? That's the elephant in the room, as far as this story is concerned. The possibilities are rather endless. If Apple wants to bolster its retail presence a bit (and complement its plants to slap iBeacon location-tracking technology in its retail stores for iOS-using shoppers), it could always borrow a page from Shopperception. The latter uses PrimeSense's technology to analyze shopping behavior based on users' interaction with arbitrary 3D "zones" – like sections of a store shelf, for example.



August 13, 2013

Microsoft: Xbox One Won’t Require Kinect to Work

Xbox OneMicrosoft's complex list of onerous requirements for its upcoming Xbox One seems to be shrinking, item-by-item, as the software giant continues to cope with public backlash against what many consumers have said would be prohibitive costs to ponying up for the next-generation game console.

In June, Redmond reversed course on a requirement that the console be connected to the Internet, while also announcing that it would not be imposing any limitations on using and sharing games as previously planned. Both of those early Xbox One protocols faced scathing backlash from gamers.

Now it seems that Microsoft has also quietly amended a previously understood requirement which tied the console and its Kinect motion sensor accessory together at the hip.

It turns out that the Xbox One will run perfectly fine even if Kinect isn't, well, connected to it, according to chief Xbox One platform architect Marc Whitten.

Speaking with IGN last week, Whitten revealed that "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 doesn't mean gamers will be able to avoid buying the accessory, however. Microsoft's upgraded Kinect will still ship with the Xbox One. It just won't render the whole system a brick if it breaks or is powered off, or if some folks who've expressed privacy concerns over Redmond's potential for capturing and tracking the movements of Xbox One users simply want to shut it down permanently.



July 16, 2013

Report: Apple to Buy Firm Behind Kinect Sensor

Kinect for Windows

Apple is reportedly in talks to buy Israeli firm PrimeSense, the company behind the technology used in Microsoft's Kinect sensor.

Negotiations are still in the early stages, according to local newspaper Calcalist, but the tech giant is expected to offer between $280 and $300 million to acquire the company. PrimeSense has already raised $85 million in venture capital funds.

The paper also reported that a delegation of Apple senior engineering managers, specializing in optical hardware, visited the Israeli firm earlier this month —a move that "demonstrates the seriousness of Apple's intentions towards [PrimeSense]," Calcalist said.

Apple did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment; a PrimeSense spokesman declined to comment.

Microsoft licenses PrimeSense's technology, chips, and designs for use in its Kinect accessory for the Xbox 360 (and upcoming Xbox One); the company has also worked with Asus, iRobot, and Bodymetrics, among others.

"PrimeSense 3D sensing technology gives digital devices the ability to observe a scene in three dimensions," according to the company. That might be attractive to Cupertino, which has been racking up patents for 3D innovations for years, including an iPad with 3D gesture control and a flexible, wraparound-display smartphone.



May 23, 2013

Microsoft’s Next-Gen Kinect for Windows Sensor Launching Next Year

Kinect for Windows

Microsoft has already revealed the always-on Kinect for its new Xbox One console, but Redmond is adding another sensor to its lineup—the next-generation Kinect for Windows.

The tech giant announced on Thursday that its new Windows-based sensor, expected to launch next year, was built with much of the same technology as the new Xbox One Kinect, meaning it will include voice and gesture commands.

"Just as the new Kinect sensor will bring opportunities for revolutionizing gaming and entertainment, the new Kinect for Windows sensor will revolutionize computing experiences. The precision and intuitive responsiveness that the new platform provides will accelerate the development of voice and gesture experiences on computers," Bob Heddle, director of Kinect for Windows, wrote in a blog post.

Kinect for Windows will come with a high-definition color camera, as well as a noise-isolating multi-microphone array to filter ambient sounds and better recognize speaking voices. It will also include Microsoft's Time-of-Flight technology, which measures the time it takes photons to bounce off of a person or object.

"All of this means that the new sensor recognizes precise motions and details," Heddle said, pointing to slight wrist rotation, body position, and even the wrinkles in clothes as data the new Kinect will sense and analyze. The sensor's enhancements will make it easier for developers to better track people, objects, and environments with greater detail. And with an expanded field of view, those details will come alive no matter the size of the room you play in.



February 12, 2013

Rumor: Next Xbox Tied at the Hip to New, Improved Kinect

Xbox Logo

Very specific information about the next-generation Xbox code named Durango has gone from a few leaks to a full-fledged gusher with the latest bit of so-called intelligence coming from a Kotaku source called SuperDaE.

The big news, if SuperDaE is to be believed—the next-gen Xbox will ship with a vastly improved Kinect motion sensor that "will always be watching you," according to Kotaku. In fact, the so-called Xbox 720 won't work unless the next-gen Kinect is plugged in, the source said.

Microsoft, of course, is remaining mum on all such leaks about the next Xbox. Nintendo released its eight-generation game console, the Wii U, at the end of 2012. As expected, Microsoft and Sony held out on making theirs available until this year—most industry watchers figure the next-gen Xbox and PlayStation will hit shelves sometime just before the end-of-year holiday season, but it could be sooner.

SuperDaE, who claimed to have two Durango development kits, gave the gaming site an earful about what to expect from the successor to Microsoft's current Xbox 360 , most it apparently gleaned from informational materials sent to game developers being courted by Redmond to create titles for the coming console.



August 22, 2012

Microsoft Kinect Gets $40 Price Cut

Kinect

Microsoft today dropped the price of its Kinect sensor to $109.99 in the U.S., down from $149.99.

Redmond described the price drop as a "permanently reduced price."

Larry Hryb, director of programming for the Xbox Live, said in a blog post that Microsoft will also cut the price elsewhere in North America, as well as in Latin America and Asia-Pacific, though he did not reveal what that price will be.

On Oct. 4, the Kinect will also get a price reduction in Australia and New Zealand, Hryb said, but there are no plans for a less expensive Kinect in EMEA and Japan.

In June, Microsoft offered up a $99 Xbox 360 console and Kinect motion controllers for buyers who signed up for a two-year Xbox Live Gold Membership. One of Microsoft's 2011 Black Friday deals was also a $99 Kinect.



May 7, 2012

Microsoft Offering $99 Xbox, Kinect Bundle With Subscription

Xbox Logo

Microsoft this week offered up an Xbox and Kinect bundle for $99 for those who subscribe to a two-year Xbox Live Gold Membership.

The Xbox Live membership will run $14.99 per month. Those who sign up will get the 4GB Xbox 360 and the Kinect sensor for $99.

Buyers will need to bring the coupon currently listed on microsoftstore.com (or offer code 885370366266) to a nearby Microsoft Store. The deal does not appear to be available online, while Microsoft said the deal is a promotional offer and could end at any time.

According to the Xbox website, users can return the hardware and cancel their subscription within 30 days, but the first month's $14.99 payment is non-refundable. After 30 days, users will incur an early termination fee (ETF) that will start at $250 and decrease as the two years progress; a user would owe $144 after one year, for example.

$99 Xbox/Kinect Bundle

News of a possible $99 Xbox/Kinect bundle was first reported last week by The Verge.



February 9, 2012

Videogame Sales Plunge 34 Percent in January

Sales of videogame software and hardware nose-dived in January, following a dearth of new releases and a strong showing by Microsoft's Kinect peripheral a year ago.

Overall, the news was grim: total videogame sales fell 34 percent from Jan. 2011 to $750.6 million, according to NPD. Hardware sales fell 38 percent to $199.5 million, while video game software sales fell the same amount to $355.9 million. Sales of video game accessories fell by 18 percent to $195.2 million.

"January retail performance experienced steep declines with a lack of software launches, and poor hardware and accessory performance partly related to bad comps [comparables] from Kinect-related success in Jan'11, NPD analyst Liam Callahan said in a an accompanying email note.

Microsoft's Xbox 360 continued its dominance of the console market, outselling all others for the sixth straight month. Microsoft recently claimed that the Xbox 360 was the top console for all of 2011, based on NPD data.



January 27, 2011

Kinect, Office 2010 Help Boost Microsoft Revenue

By Chloe Albanesius

Microsoft Windows logo

Sales of Kinect for the Xbox and Office 2010 helped boost Microsoft revenue by 15 percent last quarter, the company announced Thursday.

Revenue landed at $19.95 billion. That's up from $19 billion from the same time period last year, though that $19 billion figure included $1.71 billion in deferred revenue from the Windows 7 Upgrade Option program and Windows 7 pre-orders. As a result, revenue was up 15 percent year-over-year without that deferment, Microsoft said.

Profit came in at $6.63 billion, down slightly from last year's $6.66 billion.



January 6, 2011

Netflix, Hulu Coming to Kinect, Windows Phone 7 Getting Update

By Chloe Albanesius

Microsoft Windows logo

LAS VEGAS – Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer took the stage at the Consumer Electronics Show here Wednesday night, introducing a variety of product updates, including gesture- and voice-based access to Netflix and Hulu Plus via Kinect and an upcoming software update to Windows Phone 7.

Ballmer announced that Microsoft sold 8 million Kinect devices in its first 60 days; well ahead of the projected 5 million. "This has been the biggest holiday and the biggest year ever for Xbox," Ballmer said.

Taking advantage of this new user base, starting this spring, Xbox users will be able to control their Netflix streaming queue or Hulu Plus account via Kinect. Rather than clicking through movies or TV shows via the remote, users can use gestures or voice commands.

"We will make entertainment more interactive, more social, and more fun for everyone, and we'll do it like no one else can," Ballmer said.