It is easily one of the the most influential pieces of consumer technology of the 21st century, but even that wasn't enough to convince Microsoft to keep producing it. And with the news that Microsoft has decided to stop manufacturing the Kinect, technical tinkerers around the world will collectively shed a tear (and probably quickly move on to another one of a multitude of technologies heavily influenced by the Kinect).
I remember during my days as a human-computer interaction researcher, hacking Nintendo Wii controllers for use in our projects, thinking the only way to top the gesture-recognition capabilities of the Wii controller was to have a system that didn't require controllers at all. Shortly afterwards, Microsoft released the Kinect and my mind was officially blown.
Unfortunately, consumers - or, more specifically, gamers - weren't as enthusiastic. In fact, the best examples of how to use the Kinect weren't related to in-home entertainment - the environment it was marketed to completely revolutionise - but instead, as part of more experimental uses such as in larger experiential sets or backyard robotics awesomeness. The linked article has great examples of these. But because it failed to capture the same level of excitement in a home entertainment setting, as well as XBox refocussing itself back to a gaming console instead of a do-it-all home entertainment system, over the last couple of years, the Kinect has been quietly pushed aside; from aggressive marketing and bundling with the XBox to complete obscurity.
The Kinect itself will live on, albeit as a sub-component of other products; providing gesture recognition and depth sensing for the likes of the Hololens. Meanwhile, its influence can be found all over the place; from home assisants like the Google Home and Amazon Alexa, to the facial-recognition tech in the iPhone, as well as the latest generation of AR-ready devices. And as we head into a world of "no-UI" interfaces and increasingly practical AR, we can thank the Kinect for providing an accessible and cost-effective first-step into exploring these possibilities.
That's not to say it didn't contribute to some truly wild experiences over the years. Developers quickly applied Kinect to surgery, physical therapy and a range of other medical uses. Three years after its debut, the Kinect was able to read sign language. Musicians flocked to the technology, applying it to live shows and videos. And then there were the games: Fantasia: Music Evolved, D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die and Fru were brilliant examples of the breadth of experience possible via Kinect's gesture-tracking interface. Even Kinect Sports Rivals, for all of its flaws, laid the groundwork for local multiplayer in motion-controlled gaming.