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Xbox One Developers Can Completely Shut Off Kinect Functions

Update: Microsoft has provided us a statement on Kinect voice commands. You can read the entire statement detailing Microsoft's correction to Phil Harrison's statements. You can also read more about how we conducted this interview and the steps we took to verify the information.

Original Story:

Last week, Microsoft confirmed that an update for Xbox One developer kits would provide access to up to 10 percent more power. At the time, we postualted that Microsoft would protect the most basic of functions, namely the microphone for activating recording features or returning to the home screen.

We met with Microsoft corporate vice president Phil Harrison today who explained that developers have access to everything that was otherwise reserved for Kinect prior to the update. "The simple summary is that we've put those choices in the hands of the developer, rather than being reserved by the system," he says. "We think that's the right balance."

Unfortunately, that means that simple commands like "Xbox, Record That" and "Xbox, Go Home" won't work if developers choose to disable them in service of greater GPU power. When returning to the home screen, those resources will be freed, but it also means that you won't be able to snap functions like Skype if a developer chooses to shut them off.

"It will give up to 10 percent more performance, and developers are already telling us that it's having a material impact on their gameplay and game visuals," Harrison says. "Our committment is to continue to do that. It's not just a one-time thing. Our platform engineering teams will continue to eke out every bit of performance they can, handing that over to the developer as efficiently as possible."

Harrison doesn't think that developers will choose to cut Kinect out of their development plans, though. "I think the scenarios that most developers are going to choose, where they need every last megahertz of the system, is when the gameplay finishes and the player quits out and back to the dash, the game will hand back the system reservation. All of the system functionality of Kinect will then function as before."

For more on Kinect, be sure to check out an expanded feature in the July 2014 issue.

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