The new Kinect is kind of awesome. Just by the numbers, it's a huge upgrade. You can see (most of) the full walkthrough we saw just a bit ago here at Microsoft's Redmond campus in the video above. Parts are jaw-dropping.
The demo is of a live action Kinect unit, which will be included with the new Xbox One. Right from the start, you can see the improved depth sensor. It's three times as sensitive, and can pick out bits as small as your t-shirt wrinkling or adjusting on your chest. The 60-degree-larger field of view helps here as well (up to six people can be on screen at once), and it has a deeper field of (accurate view, too).
And oh man, the IR sensing. It's seeing in a pitch black room! That is, like, totally absurd. And should be cool for using the Kinect at night, or for horror games, where you don't want to play in a well-lit room. Or just, you know, watching any movie ever.
The new 1080p cameras are a wide field of view, which we saw in greater detail during the Skype demo with four chat partners, and looks great, but no one's too concerned about that.
The truly impressive stuff, though, comes from the brains of the Kinect. Its improved skeleton mapping is crazy accurate, and can track your individual hand motions and shoulder shrugs. The muscle tracker is also borderline ridiculous. It can tell what parts of your body have pressure on them. It knows where you're putting your weight as you lean side to side, and how much power goes into each motion, by tracking speed. It knows if you lob a slow fake punch, and it knows if you slice a fast uppercut through the air, and shows you with popping white circles around your fists or feet or head. Orientation tracking is cool as well, and will apply more to how your character moves around in games.
The heart rate monitor, which reads your heart rate just by freaking LOOKING AT YOU, seems pretty accurate, but we obviously weren't able to test against an actual heart monitor. Still, do you see this, guys, seriously this is a thing that will be in living rooms. It's very cool.
The face recognition recognizes you, personally, and can tell if you're "engaged" or not engaged, meaning if you say "Xbox pause" while not looking at the TV, it won't listen to you. This seems like something you'd maybe want to turn off, but it's still impressive it can read your expression and know if you're happy, sad, or bored.
Kinect 2 doesn't just see you, though; it can hear you too. In fact, it can hear your voice, specifically, through whatever ambient game and/or movie noise that's going on around you. Want to give a command in the middle of a particularly loud concert video or melee? You don't have to shout for Kinect 2 to listen and comply.
Calling this feature set impressive is an undersell. It's breakthrough technology on many levels, with applications far beyond watching content or playing games. It's the future, and we all get to see it today.