Microsoft created design for processor inside Xbox One's Kinect

Microsoft first announced the next generation Kinect sensor will be included with all Xbox One consoles back in May, and one thing that's really interesting about the device is that the processor inside was designed completely by Microsoft.

Bloomberg reports that the this is the first time that Microsoft has designed the processor for one of its hardware products in-house, without help from another chip maker. The original Kinect, which was sold as an add-on for the Xbox 360 in 2010, used processors designed by PrimeSense. Microsoft has a team in Silicon Valley that created the new Kinect's chip. The company created and assembled the chip but still has to give the mass manufacturing portion of the job over to a third party foundry in Taiwan

The story says that Microsoft now has 200 people working on microprocessor design and creation. Other hardware groups at Microsoft are learning about how the Kinect team made their own chips, according to Xbox hardware VP Todd Holmdahl, and we could see more Microsoft hardware products with their own custom processors in the future.

Indeed, Rob Sanfilippo, an analyst at the third party research firm Directions on Microsoft, claims that as Microsoft puts out more hardware products such as its Surface tablets, it "makes sense for them to invest more right down to the silicon so they can have proprietary features."

Source: Bloomberg | Image via Microsoft

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The original Kinect, which was sold as an add-on for the Xbox 360 in 2010, used processors designed by PrimeSense.

I may be imagining this, but I thought they opted out of putting a processor in the original Kinect as a cost saving measure, and used the 360's processing power instead? Resulting in a cheaper, but more laggy device.

Edit: I knew I'd read it somewhere... http://www.computerandvideogam...r-there-was-no-need-for-it/ . Though it seems it was not removed over cost, but because some engineer at MS deemed the device "didn't need it". I think many who've experience the sluggish inputs of the original Kinect would disagree.

lol no. 28nm virtex 7 starts at like $2000-$3000 and it goes up to $50,000. for 1 piece. the next level below are spartans,and those are using a 45nm node,too big and still too expensive. not gonna happen,ever.

spartan 3 is using 90nm node. too big,too hot,too much propagation delay,especially for something like kinect. even so, you're still looking at a few hundred dollars a piece,and i dont even think there are enough gates on that thing,then it start getting real expensive when you start looking at more gates. not feasible for a mass market product like xbox one.

CygnusOrion said,
What it also means is they can design their own ARM chip for smartphones, like Apple.

FYI
Microsoft has designed ARM CPUs in the past and even contributed to the general ARM CPU designs used by other companies like Apple. (This work goes back to the 90s.)

99% of all devices/computers use a CPU or GPU that has Microsoft Hardware designs in it, which is why it is weird that people are surprised when they realize Microsoft is capable of CPU design.

Mobius Enigma said,

99% of all devices/computers use a CPU or GPU that has Microsoft Hardware designs in it

I've heard this before, and believe it, but I've never seen a real source for this. Would you happen to have one?

Matthew_Thepc said,

I've heard this before, and believe it, but I've never seen a real source for this. Would you happen to have one?

I don't have my source folder with me.

You can piece the sources together with a few searches, these are off the top of my head:

Microsoft ARM WinCE (Look for stuff from the late 90s early 00s.)

Microsoft VS/PS NVidia Xbox
(Microsoft's contributions are at the heart of the FX-7950 Geforce GPUs)

Xbox 360 Xenon
(Microsoft modified the PowerPC)

Xbox 360 Xenos

Ati CEO Interview Xenos
(Some sources cite AMD as the designer of the Xenos GPU, but in interviews with the CEO and engineer in charge, they state they had NO idea what Microsoft HW Engineers were wanting or understood the technology and left all design to Microsoft. This is why ATI didn't pursue or use the UMA/Unified Shader GPU design until a generation after the Xenos was created.)

Microsoft beats Intel AMD SoC
(Microsoft's unified design of the Xenon and Xenos was a milestone that AMD and Intel both took reference designs. The Intel's integrated GPUs and AMD APUs specifically took technology from the CPU/GPU and how they were bridged that Microsoft designed.)

Microsoft also is behind a lot of hardware chipset designs and revisions. You can do various searches on specific reference designs, but there are a lot to list.

I wonder what the instruction set is/will be? Could be interesting with Intel bringin x86 to Android more forcefully, and Microsoft embracing non-x86 chips.

I'm curious whether or not we'll see Kinect licensed out and integrated into smartphones and laptops. Win8.1 has a Kinect-like motion control using my laptop's camera, but its fussy.

Granted, I'm not sure what a smartphone would do with it, but that's for creative app makers to figure out

Do you, by any chance, have a Lenovo laptop? I've seen that feature on the Yogas

The GS4 actually has this kind of "hand gesture control," but it's about as good as it is on the Yoga (very limited in terms of use cases, only simple gestures, etc.)

Rosyna said,
Why? A company with absolutely no experience should not design a processor. Especially without outside help.


Sam goes for posting online if you don't know what you're talking about

1. MS absolutely knows what they're doing
2. It's not really a "processor" as you think of it
3. It's fa from their first time.

Rosyna said,
Why? A company with absolutely no experience should not design a processor. Especially without outside help.
At some point, no one has help when they make something. Microsoft has a lot of chip experience considering that they work very closely with both AMD and nVidia making their video card chipsets with DirectX features. Also, they work extremely closely with both ARM-licensees, AMD and Intel to Windows to run best on each chip.

In competing with Apple and even Samsung, this was a logical next step. I would not be too surprised to see some iteration of the Surface RT running a Microsoft version of an ARM chip, farmed out to some foundry just like Apple currently does it to physically make them. With that said, I think that I prefer them making chips where it makes sense (basically very specific, low level tasks), and leaving others to compete in the space.

Where I really hope that Microsoft gains some serious traction is with batteries. My Surface RT lasts a long time, but not quite as long as an iPad. If they could give noticeably longer battery life with the same sized battery and general purpose hardware? That would be gold. For now, it seems like the rest of the industry really just puts in larger batteries to solve the problem.

[quote=Spicoli said,]Was it a completely new processor or a version of an existing architecture?[/p]

Processor for X1 is a AMD CPU with Microsoft design language on it.
Kinect, is built from Microsoft in house ground up, everything from Microsoft

its an ASIC,so its built for a specific use and not for general purpose processing,therefore it isnt even a cpu like an arm or an intel. its like writing code,but in logic using transistors.

vcfan said,
its an ASIC,so its built for a specific use and not for general purpose processing,therefore it isnt even a cpu like an arm or an intel. its like writing code,but in logic using transistors.

Thanks for the insight. I did not know that.

vcfan said,
its an ASIC,so its built for a specific use and not for general purpose processing,therefore it isnt even a cpu like an arm or an intel. its like writing code,but in logic using transistors.

That makes more sense. It's really just to bump up performance and not replace anything.

Spicoli said,

That makes more sense. It's really just to bump up performance and not replace anything.

yeah,you can get way better performance that using a cpu core. for example,say you do something on a cpu that takes 1000 clock cycles, using just combinatorial logic,you can do the exact same work in not even 1 clock cycle,and if you want,you can run 100 of these in parallel. as you can see,this destroys the performance of using a cpu.