March 22, 2011 at 4:31 PM ET
The Kinect game controller just launched in November and already rumors are making the rounds that Microsoft is working on the next version of the best-selling device.
Meanwhile a mysterious blog post and screenshot have fired up speculation that the company is working on a new Xbox game machine that could launch in 2015.
The Techie Buzz blog ignited the Kinect speculation this week after writer Manan Kakkar noticed two job postings that he says "clearly indicate that the next Kinect sensor is well underway."
One of the job postings reads, in part:
The optical engineer will be responsible for designing and specifying interface requirements among opto-mechanical system, modules, and components [...] should have a working knowledge of radiometry, photometry, and optical testing, and apply these skills to identify critical to quality metrics for imaging and illumination systems. [...] will also be responsible for qualification of injection molded lenses, accessory components, camera module, and solid state light sources.
Meanwhile, Zdnet discovered an interesting post that seemed to indicate work is under way on the next Xbox. Reporter Stephen Chapman found the portfolio post from Ben Peterson, a designer Microsoft allegedly brought on to collaborate with their Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB) Design group.
Peterson had posted a screen shot from a project that he coyly described as a "confidential/collaboration with Microsoft's IEB Design group investigating future user experiences and hardware for 2015."
The shot, now removed from Peterson's site, didn't show much except what looked as if it could possibly maybe be the very edge of a new game console or perhaps a Kinect-like device. You can still see the image on Zdnet's site.
But was it really an image from a new Xbox and/or Kinect in the works? Or was it the Loch Ness of the game world?
Eurogamer was able to track down Peterson who now claims it was a hoax. "I'm a student designer, it's not real..." he told them.
However, in an update to their original story, Zdnet remains skeptical that it was a hoax and offers some good reasons why it could be for reals.
I contacted Microsoft to see what they have to say on the topic. Not surprisingly, they've responded with: "We do not comment on rumors or speculation." (By the way, msnbc.com is a joint venture between NBC Universal and Microsoft ... though that doesn't mean jack when it comes to getting top-secret information from the latter.)
One thing is for certain, plenty of interesting Microsoft job posts have been cropping up of late – job postings that sure make it look as if the tech giant has lots of intriguing game-related R&D in the works.
As Business Insider points out, there are a couple of openings on the Xbox Console Architecture Team responsible for "defining and delivering next generation console architectures." Meanwhile, the Xbox Incubation Team says it's looking for...
"an applied researcher that will help us find and develop those industry changing experiences. This leading edge role is to incubate new user experiences, systems and algorithms developed within our team and in MS Research, then developing them so they can be used for prototyping new revolutionary entertainment experiences."
Certainly it doesn't seem much of a stretch to guess that Microsoft is working on new iterations of their game devices. The first Xbox launched back in November 2001 and was followed by the Xbox 360 in November 2005. It takes years of research, development and marketing to get these things out the door and onto shelves. So it would probably be more suprising if they weren't working on something.
Of course, whether the next Xbox and Kinect launch in 2013, 2014, 2015 or beyond ... gamers can't help but wonder, what will the next next-gen experience look like? Zdnet just uncovered the following internal video from Microsoft's Windows Gaming Experience team which may offer some clues:
It certainly looks as if Microsoft sees a future in which gaming experiences merge across its Windows, Xbox and mobile platforms. (We've already seen the start of it with the Windows Phone 7 and Xbox Live convergence.)
Meanwhile, if the above video really does give us a glimpse of the gaming ahead ... it sure looks like there could be Kinect-controlled "FarmVille" in our futures.
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