Sky is resurrecting the original dream of Microsoft’s Kinect accessory next year. The British satellite broadcaster announced its new Sky Glass TVs this morning, and the company has built a separate 4K camera that includes motion controls and gestures support. It even works across games, and has a social TV sharing feature built in partnership with Microsoft.
“Working with Microsoft we’re also building a fantastic feature that lets us watch TV together even if we’re miles apart,” explains Fraser Stirling, Sky’s chief product officer. “It syncs your TV with other households, with integrated video and chat on-screen, and you can choose content from the biggest channels — including Premier League matches, movies, and all your favorite entertainment.”
The social TV feature is exactly what Microsoft tried and failed to do with its Kinect accessory in 2013. The Xbox One launched with Kinect, and the console included a HDMI-in port to access TV satellite providers like Sky and cable boxes. Microsoft had some big plans for TV on Xbox, and even experimented with social features allowing Xbox owners to watch TV together. Ultimately, the Kinect bundling failed and the company walked back all of its bold TV plans.
Sky’s watch together feature, built in partnership with Microsoft, will allow people to see each other’s reactions instantly. You can also pause, skip, and replay as you watch together. Where this camera gets really interesting is the motion controls and gesture support for gaming.
Games will be available on Sky Glass TVs that specifically support this new camera, including a Paw Patrol-branded title and Fruit Ninja. The camera will enable multiplayer games, too. “Pick your opponent, either at home or another household and play through your body movement or gesture control,” says Stirling. “Family games are never going to be the same again.”
Sky is also investing heavily into voice controls on its Sky Glass TVs. “Hello, Sky” activates Sky’s voice commands, much like a digital assistant, and you’ll even be able to use it to switch HDMI ports by saying “Sky, Xbox” to switch to an Xbox console if you have one connected.
It all sounds and looks very much like Kinect. Microsoft dreamed big about taking over the living room with smart cameras and voice controls, and now Sky is trying to keep that dream alive.