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What happened to Kinect? And, what is Orbbec?

Greetings, immersive developers! Today, we turn our attention to the landscape of motion sensing technology! Taking a look at the journey from Microsoft’s Kinect to the rise of Orbbec. Initially a game-changer in the gaming world, Kinect expanded its influence across various fields, only to eventually step back as technology progressed. Now, Orbbec is stepping up, bringing new advancements to the table. In this post, we’ll examine the legacy of Kinect and take a closer look at what Orbbec brings to the technological field.

Rise and Impact of Kinect

Introduced in 2010 for the Xbox 360, Microsoft’s Kinect marked a breakthrough in motion sensing technology. Priced at around $150, it allowed users to interact without handheld controllers, using an RGB camera, depth sensor, and multi-array microphone. This technology quickly gained popularity for its innovative approach. Kinect evolved with versions for Windows and the Kinect V2 for Xbox One, each enhancing its capabilities and expanding its applications.

Kinect’s advanced features, including skeletal tracking, facial recognition, and voice recognition, were groundbreaking. It provided a unique, controller-free experience in gaming, and extended its reach into healthcare for rehabilitation, education for interactive learning, and the arts for creative installations. Each version received a mix of enthusiasm and criticism, reflecting the evolving expectations and preferences of its diverse user base. The features weren’t perfect but for the price point and the ease of use they were quite revolutionary.

The final iteration, Azure Kinect, released in 2019, marked a shift from gaming to enterprise and AI applications.

The Fall of Kinect

Kinect’s journey, while revolutionary, faced challenges. The gaming industry’s shift towards traditional interfaces and advanced technology marked a change in consumer preferences. This evolution, along with practical limitations of the Kinect, such as the need for ample physical space, led to its gradual decline in the gaming sector.

In August 2023, Microsoft officially ended Kinect production, including Azure Kinect. This version, designed for enterprise and AI, had advanced features but did not gain widespread adoption in the consumer market. Despite this, Kinect technology lives on! Nowadays, it’s utilized in academia, robotics, and through third-party partners, highlighting its lasting impact and the industry’s ongoing evolution. This transition underscores the need for innovative solutions, paving the way for companies like Orbbec to advance motion sensing technology.

Orbbec

Orbbec, a company emerging in the wake of Kinect’s decline, is making significant strides in the field of motion sensing technology. Unlike Kinect, which primarily targeted gaming and broad consumer markets, Orbbec has positioned itself with a strong focus on providing solutions for professional and industrial applications. Their technology is renowned for its precision, depth sensing capabilities, and versatility, making it suitable for a wide range of uses from 3D scanning to interactive installations.

What sets Orbbec apart is their commitment to developing more compact, cost-effective, and efficient sensors that address some of the key limitations faced by Kinect. They have made strides in reducing the necessary physical space for operation and improving the accuracy and responsiveness of their systems. This adaptability has made Orbbec a go-to choice for creators and developers seeking advanced motion sensing solutions.

As for the future, Orbbec continues to innovate! The main focus aims to integrate their technology with artificial intelligence and expanding their reach across various industries. From what we have witnessed so far, their approach is not just about refining motion sensing technology but reshaping how we interact with digital environments in diverse contexts.

More than just Kinect ‘clones’

It’s important to note that Orbbec has been collaborating with Microsoft! This signifies a pivotal step forward in the evolution of 3D vision technology. Their partnership, showcases a commitment to advancing the capabilities pioneered by Kinect, particularly Azure Kinect. This initiative goes beyond producing mere alternatives to existing technology; it represents a concerted effort to innovate and expand upon the foundation that Kinect established. Orbbec’s products, developed in collaboration with Microsoft, leverage cutting-edge Time-of-Flight (ToF) technology, ensuring they are equipped for a broad spectrum of industrial and commercial applications. This strategic alliance highlights Orbbec’s role not just as a successor to Kinect’s legacy but as a key player in the ongoing advancement of depth sensing and motion tracking technology.

Orbbec Catalog

Orbbec’s product line is quite diverse, offering a range of 3D vision technologies. Some of their notable products include:

  • Gemini Series: These are advanced stereo vision cameras, known for high-quality depth data output and wide field of view. They are suitable for a variety of applications from robotics to video analytics.
    Prices start at $199.99
Kinect and Orbbec
  • Femto Series: This includes the Femto Bolt, which is comparable to the Azure Kinect Developer Kit. It offers features like a 1MP depth camera and 4K RGB with HDR. It’s designed for high-quality volumetric video filming and other advanced applications.
    Prices start at $349.99
Kinect and Orbbec
  • Astra Series: Structured light cameras like Astra 2. Equipped with Orbbec’s custom ASIC for depth processing, are designed for precise depth data output and multi-camera sync support.
    Prices start at $149.99
Kinect and Orbbec
  • Persee Series: These are camera computers, like Persee N1, combining high-quality cameras with computing power for diverse 3D vision applications.
    Prices start at $379.99
Kinect and Orbbec

Here’s the company’s official release on the Femto Mega:

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Orbbec and TouchDesigner

At the moment, there are not many resources directly linking and showcasing the use of Orbbec hardware with TouchDesigner. However, here is a sample of some depth information provided by Orbbec while particles are controlled. Tutorial by Allen G.

While direct resources on integrating Orbbec hardware with TouchDesigner may be sparse, the native Orbbec TOP in TouchDesigner facilitates this process! It enables the use of Orbbec cameras in your projects. Moreover, many techniques from Kinect Azure tutorials are adaptable for Orbbec cameras, offering a versatile approach to leveraging existing resources for depth sensing and motion tracking in interactive designs. This ensures that we can creatively apply a wide range of techniques to Orbbec-enabled projects!

Wrap Up

In wrapping up, today’s post went over Kinect’s legacy and Orbbec’s emergence, showcasing the evolution of motion sensing technology. If you’re venturing into the realms of 3D scanning, interactive installations, or just seeking to enhance your projects with depth-sensing capabilities, Orbbec’s innovative solutions might be worth exploring.

Until next time!