It’s no secret that Microsoft can chalk up its 3-D, active gaming system Kinect as a big win for the Xbox 360 and their share of the gaming world. Not only was the launch a massive success, but the developer managed to correct the mistakes of its past and make the Kinect a reliable addition to owners’ gaming environments.
Last week, Microsoft engineers discussed the origin of Kinect and what made it such a success in the tech world during the Hot Chips conference at Stanford University. Over at Venture Beat, they have a full report on what Microsoft’s Kinect team had to say about the project, but it was the talk of testing methods for the system that caught our attention.
“You had to test it by dropping it on concrete,” said Dawson Yee, one of the engineers on the Kinect team. “That was the level of robustness.”
The discussion goes on to highlight some of the other conditions and mishaps engineers had to guard against, indicating that Microsoft seemed to have taken to heart the years of complaints about its 360 systems going on the fritz. Essentially, the system had to be designed to withstand almost anything consumers could throw at it, from hot temperatures to sketchy shipping and intense power surges.
“We knew this thing was going to be viewed as a toy and so it was going to be abused,” said Scott McEldowney, another Kinect engineer.
On top of all that, the team had to pay attention to Kinect’s fashion sense, too. After all, no one is going to make an ugly device the centerpiece of their entertainment center.
“It can’t look junky or overbearing,” said Yee of the directive they were given.
According to the report, Microsoft enlisted the aid of industrial designers and home visits with consumers to nail down the visual aesthetic of the Kinect.
The report on the Microsoft team’s presentation goes on to offer some in-depth commentary on the inner workings of the Kinect and how the team put existing (and sometimes non-existent) technology to use in the system. And while it’s reassuring to know that the Kinect is capable of being dropped on concrete, we don’t think we’ll be testing that aspect of its sturdiness any time soon.
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