SAN FRANCISCOóDespite Microsoft Corp.'s claims to the contrary, its new Kinect motion-gaming ad-on for the Xbox 360 uses a standalone applications processor marketed by Marvell Technology Group Ltd. , according to a teardown analysis of the Kinect performed by UBM TechInsights.
TechInsights' teardown uncovered within Kinect a Marvell PXA 168 applications processor, a part usually found in notebook computers. In September, Microsoft reportedly said it decided not to use a dedicated processor in Kinect. Instead, the company reportedly said the peripheral would harness the power of the processor within the Xbox.
Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) did not immediately respond to request for comment about the discrepancy.
TechInsights analysts concluded that Microsoft's head fake means the company has bigger plans to make Kinect more of a platform for applications beyond gaming, or that the company was simply trying to prevent the device from being hacked. The Kinect has reportedly already been hacked multiple times.
The analysts also believe that Microsoft may have underestimated the resource demand on the 360 console processor and was forced into using a laptop-equivalent processor to integrate the imaging, sensing, motor-drive and control functions and orchestrate I/O and communications between the Kinect and Xbox 360. It's also possible that the processor was required to support the spatial aspects of Kinect's multiple microphones, they said.
"Itís difficult to identify exactly what the Marvell processor accomplishes on the Kinect as investigation on how the firmware and software manage all control and processing functions and how they could be localized/virtualized to the Xbox havenít been investigated yet," said Allan Yogasingam, a technical marketing manager at TechInsights. "Regardless, Microsoft has created a product that takes full advantage of all its components to provide an innovative gaming experience. The existence of this Marvell processor just opens the door for further innovation down the line and an extension of the Kinect from more than just a sensor-based gaming accessory."
TechInsights also conducted further study on the sensor unit that works with Kinect's image processor, made by PrimeSense Ltd. The firm discovered that the CMOS image sensors used were provided by Aptina Imaging (the die markings on the sensors still refer to Micron Imaging, which was spun off into Aptina in 2008). The infrared camera uses the MT9M001 sensor and RGB input from the color camera features the MT9M112 sensor, TechInsights said.
Close up of the Marvell PXA 168 applications processor found inside Kinect. Source: UBM TechInsights.
TechInsights' recent teardown of Kinect found chips made by PrimeSense, Marvell, Texas Instruments Inc., STMicroelectronics NV and others. The firm estimates that Kinect carries a bill-of-materials of roughly $56 for the components, not including the the price of design, R&D and the $500 million Microsoft plans to spend to market the device.
UBM TechInsights is a division of United Business Media, the parent company of EE Times.