I toyed with the idea of headlining this one "Report: next version of Kinect to be broadly the same as only better than existing version", but that would have been disgracefully cynical, so I've written it here in the introduction instead where nobody will read it.
The latest Durango Kinect 720 Real Next Gen Rumour comes care of VGleaks, who rank among the internet's more credible hardware tipsters. According to them, the Durango's built-in Kinect sensor will scan in dramatically greater detail, thanks to a higher resolution RGB stream, and a new IR sensor designed to work in tandem with the colour sensor. It'll also have a wider field of view, negating the need for a tilt motor, and will run on dedicated Durango system resources for a range of benefits.
The colour stream will offer a resolution of 1920 x 1080, it's claimed, and run at 30 frames a second - allowing for more accurate object recognition. The new active IR stream, meanwhile, "is stable across variable lighting conditions. For example, shadows, pixel intensities and noise characteristics are the same for a well-lit room the same as for no light in the room. As a result, this stream could be used for feature detection in situations where a colour stream would be useless."
The greater field of view means Kinect 2.0 will be more suitable for multiplayer gaming - it accommodates four players "comfortably" and can stretch to six. "With a 70-degree horizontal and 60-degree vertical FOV, and a depth range of 0.8 m to 4.0 m, the sensor captures a much expanded area compared to the Xbox 360 Kinect Sensor," the site writes. "At 0.8 m, this area is 1.12 m wide by 0.92 m high; at 4 m the area is 5.6 m wide by 4.6 m high."
Skeleton recognition is allegedly sharper, too. The device will have fewer difficulties distinguishing between seated and standing players or players of different heights, and can detect both open and closed hands. It won't be thrown off when a limb is obscured behind the body or an object, or when you turn sideways.
Thanks in part to a new high-speed USB 3.0 connection, latency has been cut by a third, down from 90 to 60 ms - still noticeable, but less bothersome. The new Kinect will run an always-on identity tracking system, signing in players automatically the moment they step into view.
The decision to run these and other "core" aspects of Kinect 2.0 on dedicated system resources - rather than obliging developers to set aside memory and processing power for them - allows certain functions to persist as you skip between games, the dash and other experiences.
"Durango's identity system will be continuously running," Wikileaks goes on. "Its allocation is part of the system reservation. For this reason, developers can think of identity as another input stream from the NUI Identity system. This significantly reduced API set makes integrating identity with titles smooth and easy."
"Core Kinect functionality that is frequently used by titles and the system itself are part of the allocation system, including color, depth, active IR, ST, identity, and speech." Amongst other things, this means you can switch applications without signing in again.
Kinect 2.0 looks much the same from the outside, we're told, and will occupy much the same place in your living room - above or below the TV. Sold any of this? Check the source for more confusing numbers.
On the games front, Microsoft began staffing up to produce "premium Kinect-powered experiences" in December. The upgraded device may work in tandem with Xbox Illumiroom graphics projection technology to create what's basically a Holodeck, as per the trailer below.
Thanks to Digital Foundry for additional insights.