Microsoft's next-gen Kinect sensor is pretty slick. It uses an HD depth camera and "proprietary Time-of-Flight technology" to track movements with much more precision and a wider field of view than the Xbox 360's motion controller. According to Bloomberg, the proprietary tech involves a custom chip designed by Microsoft itself. The site, er, cites Cyrus Bamji, who reportedly "played a key role in developing the silicon architecture."
Custom chips aren't completely foreign territory for Microsoft. The firm has dabbled in designs for consoles and set-top boxes. However, Bloomberg quotes Microsoft engineer Nick Baker as saying "the company has never handled this much of a chip's design, development and assembly." Only final fabrication has been handed off to a third party (TSMC, by the way).
More in-house designs may be in the cards, as well. The company has "about 200 people working on microprocessors," Bloomberg states. Microsoft VP of interactive entertainment Todd Holmdahl adds that other groups within the firm are curious about making custom chips.
The fact that Microsoft devoted the resources to create custom silicon for its new Kinect sensor suggests the motion controller is a particularly important part of the company's plans. As Ubi's Kinect-powered touchscreen tech illustrates, motion tracking has interesting applications beyond video games. Too bad PC users will have to wait until next year to get a Windows-friendly version of the latest Kinect hardware.