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Can we finally admit that Kinect is dead?

When Microsoft announced the Xbox One S earlier this week, it ticked off a laundry list of characteristics: Blu-ray UHD support, 4K video playback, High Dynamic Range (HDR) displays, even a significant uptick in available internal storage. The one thing it won’t have: A Kinect port. Instead, Microsoft will offer a USB adapter for Kinect users ($49.99 normally, but MS will send you a free adapter if you already own both an Xbox One and a Kinect.)

Don’t get me wrong; I think giving free adapters to people who bought both Kinect 2 and an Xbox One is the right thing to do, and Microsoft should continue to support the peripheral at its current level of functionality for the life of the console. But it’s time to admit what everyone has known since Redmond stopped forcing everyone to buy Kinect if they wanted an Xbox One: This peripheral is dead.

Of course, it’s not literally dead. You can still play Kinect-enabled games, and Kinect support is coming to Universal Windows Platform (UWP) applications with the Anniversary Update scheduled for Windows 10 later this summer. But by removing the port from the Xbox One S, Microsoft has more-or-less confirmed that Kinect is now a vestigial product, not a forward-thinking peripheral.

The problem with Kinect, of course, was never that it was a bad concept — it just never made much sense as part of a gaming console. Over the past few years, we’ve seen Kinect used in combination with the Oculus Rift to create whole-body VR, as part of an effort to track movement in the South Korean DMZ, to map room layouts to create autonomous robots, translate sign language into text, and even to diagnose depression. Innovative uses for a low-cost motion-capture camera clearly aren’t hard to come by, and Microsoft appears to have done the world+dog a favor by building one.

The one place such a peripheral didn’t make much sense was as a whole-body replacement for a controller, and Microsoft never found a compelling way to integrate Kinect as a peripheral for giving in-game commands that resonated with enough users and developers to make its adoption worthwhile. By pushing it off to a USB-based peripheral, Microsoft can keep Kinect support integrated with all future versions of the console without worrying about sacrificing space to hooking it up, or building a dedicated port for it in the future. No word yet on whether or not the USB peripheral has any impact on latency, but since the Kinect may well have used that protocol to begin with, it shouldn’t have much impact one way or the other.

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