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This diagram illustrates the technical features of Microsoft's current Kinect peripheral for Xbox 360


British game website Eurogamer quoted an unnamed source Monday in a story that provides alleged details concerning Microsoft's unannounced next-generation living room game platform.

The information focuses on the next iteration of Kinect, Microsoft's motion and voice detecting peripheral. The new device will apparently come baked into the console and provide greatly enhanced camera and audio sensitivity. It will be able to detect and understand facial expressions, determine the direction in which players are facing, and even -- in potentially creepy HAL 9000-fashion -- read lips.

It comes as no surprise that Kinect will play a major role in Microsoft's next system. The $150 Xbox 360 add-on became the fastest-selling device of all time when it launched in the fall of 2010 and moved 10 million units in 60 days, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

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Game makers were left racing to create experiences for this unexpectedly large new audience. Homebrewers, meanwhile, got busy creating non-gaming applications ranging from professional presentation programs to surgical aids.

Released some five years after the launch of the Xbox 360, many of Kinect's current limitations -- which include noticeable lag and less than perfect accuracy in some games -- have to do with the game console's aging hardware rather than technical limitations inherent to the sensor itself.

According to the Eurogamer article, a prime offender is the system's out-of-date USB technology, which chokes the rate at which the camera sends data to the system. Increasing throughput could potentially allow images with high-definition resolution to be sent through to the console, increasing motion detection accuracy.

Rumours about the next generation of living room game hardware have been growing in detail and frequency since April, when word slipped that Nintendo's upcoming Wii U -- officially announced at E3 in Los Angeles in June -- would arrive as early as 2012.

Subsequent leaks have suggested that Microsoft's next system may be shown at E3 in 2012 before being released in 2013.

Still more reports claim that Sony's internal studios are already working on games for the next PlayStation, which insiders have predicted could launch shortly after Microsoft's next Xbox.

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About the Author
Game and Gadget Reporter

Chad Sapieha has been writing about video games and consumer gadgets for the Globe and Mail since 2003. His work has been published in magazines, newspapers, and Web sites across North America, and he has appeared as an expert on television and radio newscasts. More

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