Monday, March 3, 2014

Minds behind Xbox One's Kinect 2.0 are putting together a team to develop a first-to-market product.

I have been rummaging through the job listings on the Microsoft careers site and I stumbled across an interesting listing regarding the teams behind Kinect.  They are trying to fill a job roll called a Pixel Test Engineer for an unannounced piece of Hardware.  The job is listed as:
There are a few key lines in the listing that tip Microsofts cards to something that they are working on.

The team that designed and implemented the custom silicon for the Time of Flight sensor in Kinect for XBOX One and profoundly redefined the way people interact with technology is forming a product development team to change the world again! We are a growing team of experienced device product developers, working in a startup environment on redefining experiences with epic technology innovation.

We are developing ground-breaking hardware, software and experiences across computer vision, machine learning, human-computer interaction, image and video processing, networking and graphics. We will transform our ideas into reality through shipping a first-to-market product.
This says a few things.  Microsoft are in the early stages of a product that we have never seen before.  Some of the people who worked on the Kinects Time of Flight system are involved.  My first instinct was to assume it was going to be Kinect 3.0, but the last line of the second quotation sort of puts that to rest when they say it is a first to market product.  Although it would be fair to say that "technically" a Kinect 3.0 sensor would be a first to market product.  My justification for thinking it would be something different is that they mention a startup environment in the beginning which seems more like a new team on a brand new project.  Although, as you will see below, the new product is still dealing with some of the same technology that essential to the function of the Kinect 2.0.
Lets keep digging!

Pixel testing and characterization Engineer to support the development of proprietary time of flight Pixel as part of the time of flight Pixel RD team.

So this job is going to deal with the same sort of technology that is currently in the Kinect 2.0.  Time of Flight systems are a distance measuring camera which calculates distance based on the known speed of light.

The one thing we do know is that this team is working on a something that is hardware based rather than software based since a lot of the job listings requirements are centrally focused on wafer design and testing.

Required Experience and Skills
- 7+ years of experience in image sensor product and wafer probe testing depending on educational background and relevant product and market experience
- Understanding of fabrication technology from 0.13u to the latest technologies
They do mention that this startup team of people will be working on software as well, but that software is likely the programming that is needed to function whatever this device is with the Xbox One system.  There are two more bulletpoints from the listing that convince me this listing is looking for someone to help develop a new piece of revolutionary hardware.  They are in the beneficial experience and skills section which list:

- Experience in yield improvement
- Experience in foundry management 

Those are two things that would have little to do with anything software related.

All of this does not break anything major or even give any inside information as to what we can expect from Microsoft.  It is really just an analysis of a single job listing from Microsoft.  They are hiring people all the time.  We already know that.  What makes this just a little bit interesting is that we know it is people who worked on Kinect and we know they are working in a small startup team on something new.  Chances are the idea is already there, but the final-concept is far from established.  Whatever this product is will be using some of the same technology that is currently in every Kinect 2.0 sensor.  Kinect 3.0 is an exciting notion just as much as anything else it could be, but the gamer in me reads first to market and thinks of something brand new that we've never seen before.

Anyway.  What do you all think?



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