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XBox (Games) Input Devices Microsoft Upgrades Games Hardware

Microsoft Confirms Disconnecting Kinect Gives Devs 10% More GPU Horsepower 174

Posted by timothy
from the remove-airbags-install-rollcage dept.
MojoKid (1002251) writes 'Microsoft confirmed a development rumor that's been swirling around its next-generation console ever since it announced Kinect would become an optional add-on rather than a mandatory boat anchor. Lifting that requirement will give game developers 10 percent additional graphics power to play with and help close the gap between the Xbox One and PS4. The story kicked off when Xbox head Phil Spencer tweeted that June's Xbox One dev kit gave devs access to more GPU bandwidth. Further, another Microsoft representative then confirmed that the performance improvement coming in the next version of the Xbox SDK was the result of making Kinect an optional accessory. No matter how Microsoft may try to spin it, cancelling Kinect isn't just a matter of giving game developers freedom, it's a tacit admission that game developers have no significant projects in play that are expected to meaningfully tap Kinect to deliver a great game experience — and they need those GPU cycles back.' Also on the Xbox capabilities front: Reader BogenDorpher (2008682) writes 'In August of last year, a Microsoft spokesman confirmed that the Xbox One controller will be compatible for PC users sometime in 2014. That time has finally come. Windows gamers can now use the Xbox One controller to play games on their computer. If a game supports a USB gamepad or the Xbox 360 controller, it will also support the Xbox One controller.'
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Microsoft Confirms Disconnecting Kinect Gives Devs 10% More GPU Horsepower

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  • by Whatanut (203397) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @11:14AM (#47172501)

    Doesn't that then lead to a bad situation for kinect users? If you design a game that relies on that overhead, then those that don't have it will have a poor experience. Granted, you can probably just disconnect the kinect and be just fine. Be all know what the general masses will do. Complain.

    • by gman003 (1693318) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @11:35AM (#47172681)

      I think it's more "if you compile your game without Kinect, you will have access to that processing slice and Kinect won't". Whether the hardware is physically there or not is irrelevant to the reserved processor time.

      • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @01:31PM (#47173757) Journal

        Well, that would be the logical way to do it. But this is Microsoft. They did release the system with a mandatory accessory that's hardly ever used, and takes away 10% of all processing power automatically. So, logic might not be something they are particularity familiar with.

        • by lgw (121541)

          In this case, it would actually make some sense: the Xbone uses the Kinect for more than just gameplay. IIRC, the voice recognition stuff all goes through the connect, plus stuff as basic as signing into the box when it turns on.

          That's my biggest complaint with my Xbone right now: sign-in every time I turn it own blows goats unless I have the Kinect attached. And it didn't when I bought it - the goat blowing was an update. Stop the goat-blowing updates MS, sheesh!

        • by qwak23 (1862090)

          I was going to mention something about kilobytes, but at this point it's probably just as cliché as beating a dead horse.

        • by Xest (935314)

          Actually I think the summary is just simply awful and that's the problem here.

          From what I understand, up until now, Microsoft has reserved 10% of processing time for Kinect. All they're doing is dropping that reservation.

          So if you're doing something like playing a Kinect focussed game that game can still reserve 10% processing time for Kinect to do Kinect properly, it's just that it's optional now such that non-Kinect games are no longer stuck with a 10% reservation for something they'll never use.

          So it's n

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          Microsoft are quite good on the technical side these days, especially the console division. It was a management/marketing cock-up to require the Kinect. They underestimated how much better the PS4 hardware was and how little gamers really cared about Kinect.

          I wonder if this means that people without a Kinect, or games with the Kinect disabled, won't be able to use voice control? Maybe they are keeping some power back to handle that, plus all the other OS stuff that goes on.

      • I wouldn't imagine it's anything to do with the game being compiled, but I would suspect it's due to the processing power to constantly monitor and detect commands through the camera. That monitoring may be computed via OpenCL/DirectCompute which would leverage the GPU's compute power to perform that task. Simply unplugging the Kinect would likely stop that monitoring, freeing up the GPU for other tasks.

        Similarly, I find that using the compute power of my video cards to run Folding@Home renders my computer

    • by NotDrWho (3543773)

      Granted, you can probably just disconnect the kinect and be just fine.

      I guess then Kinect won't respond to voice commands for a while. But then, it never really did before either. I guess you will know when you have to yell "Xbox Off" 30 times instead of the normal 25.

      • by PRMan (959735)
        So, just for fun, you can yell "Xbox Off OK OK" in somebody's house when they're just about to finish something REALLY difficult? Good to know.
    • If you design a game that relies on that overhead, then those that don't have it will have a poor experience.

      If you design a game that relies on the Kinect, then those players are probably getting a poor experience anyway.

  • Does anyone think that it is interesting that the Kinect requires 10% GPU resources and not 10% CPU resources? Was MS using the GPU to handle processing because it would drain the CPU more?
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @11:21AM (#47172567) Homepage

      Or, maybe the kinds of tasks the Kinect is doing are best suited for the GPU?

      Since it's motion tracking and vision, that sounds like graphics to me.

    • by sg_oneill (159032) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @11:21AM (#47172571)

      Not really. The Kinect mostly is about image processing and highly parallel vector processing is just what that sort of application requires.

      It would have been stranger if it DIDNT rely on the GPU.

      • by mestar (121800)

        And uses random forests to identify humans in the 3d space it sees, and also locate 3d positions of ten or twenty of their body parts. Just some details of what 10% does.

    • Does anyone think that it is interesting that the Kinect requires 10% GPU resources and not 10% CPU resources? Was MS using the GPU to handle processing because it would drain the CPU more?

      That was my thought. Why not an architecture to handle Kinect processing independently? Not being a hardware guy, it might be a stupid question.

      • Then the xbox would cost even more....

      • by Wootery (1087023)

        As 91degrees says, GPUs are pretty damn good at image-processing tasks like this. It might be possible to have a dedicated kinect chip, depending on how much flexibility you want, but that would increase system complexity for no obvious advantage - that would be money better spent on just making the GPU go faster.

        The obvious advantage of the make-the-GPU-go-faster approach is what we're now seeing: non-Kinect applications now have access to more GPU power than before. If MS had gone with a dedicated image-p

        • Thanks, that makes total sense.
          • by Wootery (1087023)

            Glad to be of help.

            One other factor I kinda glossed over is programmability: if we have the graphics chip doing the image-processing work, we can reprogram it if/when we develop a better algorithm, or if we want to do something peculiar - a feng shui app would need to detect furniture, not faces and hands, say.

            A dedicated kinect processing chip would either have to be 'fixed function' and impossible to reprogram, or else it would be a programmable chip which is really good at doing image processing... which

    • well, for one thing, it's probably constantly running the frames from the two cameras through some kind of GPU filter. I've done some computer vision stuff, and a common technique is to use the gpu to take the difference between a couple frames. That operation isn't super taxing on the gpu, but it does require a lot of sending data to and from the gpu, That bandwidth is always pretty scarce. They are most likely also using some GPGPU techniques to crunch a whole lot of numbers comparing what's in frame to
    • The kind of processing done for the Kinect is well suited a GPU: facial recognition, skeleton tracking, hand tracking, voice recognition. These feature use a lot of matrix math, geometric algorithms, and signal processing... stuff you want to do on a highly parallel processing architecture. So yeah, doing them on a serial architecture like an x86 CPU would be much more taxing.
    • Being that Connect has two high resolution camera's that does some fairly advance stuff like finding where you face and other body parts are, interpret gestures and what not. It seem that the GPU will do a lot of the work.

      Oddly enough back in the olden days the CPU was the major player, today a lot of processing is going to the GPU to do most of the work.

  • Controllers for PC? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thedonger (1317951) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @11:18AM (#47172537)
    From the summary:

    'In August of last year, a Microsoft spokesman confirmed that the Xbox One controller will be compatible for PC users sometime in 2014. That time has finally come. Windows gamers can now use the Xbox One controller to play games on their computer. If a game supports a USB gamepad or the Xbox 360 controller, it will also support the Xbox One controller.'

    That is interesting given that my brother and my cousin - both big into gaming - use PC-style controls with their Xbox because they feel it gives them an edge over users of the Xbox controller.

    • by asmkm22 (1902712)
      First, you can't simply plug a mouse and keyboard into an xbox (any version) and get "PC-style" controls. Aside from the fact that the hardware won't allow it unless the unit is modded, the games are designed for analog input which doesn't translate very well to mouse and keys. IF they are somehow doing that, then they are actually putting themselves at a disadvantage. Second, people generally don't use controllers on a PC for competitive games like FPS's (although fighters are an exception). I personal
      • by Ash-Fox (726320)

        First, you can't simply plug a mouse and keyboard into an xbox (any version) and get "PC-style" controls.

        You make it sound like plugging in an adapter [controllermax.com] is so difficult.

        • by asmkm22 (1902712)
          Again, that doesn't solve the problem of poor mouse support in console games where the input is setup for analog speeds.
          • by Ash-Fox (726320)

            Again, that doesn't solve the problem of poor mouse support in console games where the input is setup for analog speeds.

            What's wrong with the presets on the adapter I linked exactly? I honestly had a hard time telling the difference between controlling it on a PC verses console, other than the fact that stuff seemed easier to hit on the console version.

    • by LordNimon (85072)

      That is interesting given that my brother and my cousin - both big into gaming - use PC-style controls with their Xbox because they feel it gives them an edge over users of the Xbox controller.

      This doesn't make any sense. There are no PC-style controllers that work on an Xbox. You can plug in a keyboard and a mouse, but they work very poorly on an Xbox. Now, there are third-party controllers that have some enhancements (extra buttons in different locations, etc). But I would not call them "PC-style" con

    • by radtea (464814)

      That is interesting given that my brother and my cousin - both big into gaming - use PC-style controls with their Xbox because they feel it gives them an edge over users of the Xbox controller

      Which raises the burning question: why is anyone reporting user feelings rather than actual data to /.? It's the 21st century... surely by now everyone on here knows that how people feel and what is actually going on are almost completely decoupled.

      Some people "feel" that wifi is interfering with their qi, even though the data show that no such effect occurs (that is, no one is able to tell if wifi signals are turned on based on such feelings.)

      Ten years ago a surgeon I know worked on a study of post-operati

      • by tepples (727027)
        How about this: "They win noticeably more matches with a mouse and keyboard than with a gamepad." Or would you then proceed to slam me for not backing up "noticeably" with statistical rigor?
    • by Xest (935314)

      Right but PC vs. console controls aside and focussing on just console controllers the XBox 360 controller is IMO the single most comfortable and nicest to use out there.

      I use one on my Raspberry Pi with RetroPie to play old Megadrive, SNES, NES, Master System games and so forth for this reason. It's much nicer than trying to play Mario with say a keyboard.

      Sometimes these controllers just make more sense, not all the time by any means, but sometimes.

  • Why the hyperbole? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Assmasher (456699) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @11:28AM (#47172627) Journal

    No matter how Microsoft may try to spin it, cancelling Kinect isn't just a matter of giving game developers freedom, it's a tacit admission that game developers have no significant projects in play that are expected to meaningfully tap Kinect to deliver a great game experience

    First, Kinect isn't cancelled.

    Second, it isn't a tacit admission that game developers have no games coming out that meaningfully use the Kinect because game developers that need Kinect for their game simply keep using it (because it isn't cancelled...)

    It's really just what they should have done in the beginning, allowed developers to use the GPU the way they wish. I fully expect devs to allow users to pause their game, which re-enables Kinect support in order to allow me to perform whatever non-game actions I wish to initiate (like answering a Skype call.)

    What's the big hairy deal?

    Like the PS4? Buy one, enjoy.
    Like the XBox One? Buy one, enjoy.

    Christ, get over yourselves.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Kinect died the moment they made it optional. The only way developers are going to take the risk of investing heavily in Kinect development is if they know that the entire user base has one. Now that it is optional it will suffer the same fate as virtually every other optional gimmic in the history of gaming. Lackluster support and fading into obscurity.

    • by asmkm22 (1902712)
      You could consider it unofficially cancelled. See, if developers know that only a small percentage of the user-base has a Kinect, then they won't spend a lot of time coming up with creative ways to use the hardware. And then without compelling reason to buy a Kinect, new customers will continue to choose the XBox without one and save $100. So it will effectively cancel the project.
      • by mckwant (65143)

        Even worse, you have a situation where people with Kinects disconnect them. Then your Skype / NetFlix / "XBox Bing Whatever" experience gains a "hook up the Kinect" step, and the XBox One isn't the centerpiece of your living room rig any more.

      • by Assmasher (456699)

        That's like saying Kinect was cancelled on XBox 360 the day it was released because it was optional. Excellent logic.

        See, if developers know that only a small percentage of the user-base has a Kinect, then they won't spend a lot of time coming up with creative ways to use the hardware.

        See, if developers know that more than 4 million XBox Ones are out there with a Kinect (as of now), they they will spend a lot of time coming up with creative ways to use the hardware...

        • by asmkm22 (1902712)
          Right, well I guess I'll stand corrected in a year when the market is loaded with games taking advantage of Kinect in amazing and creative ways.
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Like the PS4? Buy one, enjoy.
      Like the XBox One? Buy one, enjoy.

      These days there are few platform exclusive titles, and many of the people buying these machines can't afford to own both. At the moment the choice is between a better performing and cheaper P4 or a more expensive and lower performance XBone.

      On top of that video games are a multi billion dollar industry. Bigger than movies and music. They are a major form of entertainment. It's a big deal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 05, 2014 @11:31AM (#47172649)

    It has been known for months that this change was coming. The xbox one currently reserves about 10% of GPU power for the Kinect even it is not used by the game. The only thing that is changing is that the game developer will be able to indicate if they are using the Kinect or not. If not they will be able to use those additional gpu resources for whatever they want. So this has nothing to do with making the Kinect optional. Even people with a Kinect will get this performance boost in games that don't use the Kinect.

  • Games have to work whether the device is there or not. In other words they have to function in the worst case. It'll only be if Microsoft delivers a firmware update that allows a game to completely turn off the Kinect and free up all reserved CPU, GPU and memory that they can be sure to make use of it.

    Anyway it's not uncommon for consoles to be quite conservative and reserve more resources than they need (as a form of future proofing) and loosen up as the firmware matures. I'm sure Sony holds some CPU bac

  • | "Windows gamers can now use the Xbox One controller to play games on their computer. If a game supports a USB gamepad or the Xbox 360 controller, it will also support the Xbox One controller."

    Patently stupid. Any Windows game can be played with almost any controller using a key mapper (I personally use XPadder).

    • by asmkm22 (1902712)
      And I can just plug an Xbox 360 controller into my computer, and it works. I don't need a key mapper or anything, and most games come with controller support anyway, so the correct prompts and stuff show up in-game.
      • The mapper is for custom settings. I have my own layout of movement and menu functions that let me play away with my left thumb on a 360 pad with right hand totally free (like reaching for beer). The controller configs I've seen from native out-of-the-box support are generally still stuck in the X-wing joystick era.

    • by PRMan (959735)
      Unfortunately, it's getting to be nearly impossible to play any PC game with an actual PC gamepad anymore. My Logitechs are gathering dust except for the occasional MAME game (and even then only Player 3 since I have homemade arcade joysticks).
  • I am not at all shocked that the Kinect eats GPU power. Machine vision isn't exactly computationally light, there is a lot of math to run on each frame plus the I/O overhead. They have to run those algorithms on something and my guess is they used DirectCompute to utilize the GPU to save money on hardware.

    They could use a dedicated DSP in the Kinect but that would drive up the cost of the Kinect making it an overpriced and unappealing accessory. A quick check on Digikey for the Analog Devices Sharc DSP reve

    • by Assmasher (456699)

      Presumably the Kinect exports motion maps (probably skeletal) that are generated in the device itself via DSP. The spatial analysis on those motion maps is likely done on the GPU.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @12:56PM (#47173493)

    Look back in the history of gaming. You will invariably stumble upon various attempts at more "immersive" input systems rather than mouse, keyboard and gamepad... and invariably, they all sucked donkey balls. They were gimmicky and "new", a select few of them were maybe even fun to use or enjoyable, or they offered some sort of interesting gameplay experience for a while, at least 'til that "new car smell" was gone, but in the end, they sucked.

    Why?

    Because an input device should first and foremost be one thing: A translation of what the player wants to do into a form the game can understand. That has to be as precise and complete as possible for it to be enjoyable by the player. Players enjoy having control over what they are supposedly controlling in a game. Sluggish controls and a bad user interface, any player will agree, are often game crippling. If the difficulty of the game consists of actually controlling what you're doing, the game is not enjoyable. The controls should be easy and precise, and the difficulty should come from having to use that precise control to overcome the obstacles presented.

    And that's where the problem with the various input devices lies: They lack precision. It is usually more complicated to get the game to do what you want than actually playing the game. In the end this means that games that rely on various gimmicky input devices have to be dumbed down and "made easy", to the point where, when you somehow manage to play those games with a "normal" controller/keyboard/mouse, they instantly become trivially easy to beat.

    That is not what's enjoyable. The game has to be the challenge. Not the input device.

    • by exomondo (1725132)

      The most appropriate control mechanism depends on the type of game. For an RTS it's probably mouse + keyboard, for a fighting game probably a gamepad, for a driving game a steering wheel, for a fitness game (or like the games in Kinect sports) something like PSEye or Kinect. In theory you could limit yourself to a mouse and keyboard or a gamepad for all genres but it's a compromise.

      • I agree with the former, I do not agree with the latter. While the game mat for the old NES was or the Kinect for the XB1 is the "appropriate" input device for fitness games, they are by no means the most efficient ones. To give you an example, it was heaps easier to beat DDR with a keyboard than it was with the dance mats, simply because it is a lot easier to tap a button than to hit a spot on the floor with your foot.

        Yes, that is not how it was supposed to be played. But it sure as hell was easier and mor

        • by exomondo (1725132)

          I'm guessing you haven't seen any of the xbox fitness games if you think they would somehow be easier with a controller, I'm not even sure how that would work. DDR is pretty clear how it would work but certainly not full body fitness games with kinect.

          But that's really beside the point, the easiest and most efficient way to beat these is to write a program to do it for you and not even have a controller, sure it's not the way it's supposed to be played but it's easier and more efficient.

  • Not just more power, not just more cycles, not just more mhz, but actual 'horsepower'. Neat.

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