Time-of-Flight Sensor
Time-of-Flight Sensor MSV Takes Silicon Development into the Next Dimension

In the small world of silicon chip engineering, ISSCC is the premier annual conference. It’s hosted right down the road from Microsoft Silicon Valley, but, until this year, no Microsoft paper had ever been accepted into the conference.

Then came the Kinect “time-of-flight sensor” for Xbox One and all of that changed.

“This year we presented the sensor at ISSCC and it opened a lot of eyes in the Valley and beyond,” says Pat O’Connor, Director of Engineering on MSV’s Silicon Development team. “It made the statement that Microsoft is here and serious about doing custom silicon development.”

The time-of-flight sensor and its advanced silicon chip essentially function as a camera. But it is not just any camera. Because it allows a device to recognize human gestures in greater detail, it’s a huge step forward on the path toward true Natural User Interface.

Cyrus Bamji, Hardware Architect for Architecture & Silicon Management, explains, “As part of the Kinect for Xbox One, the sensor creates better gameplay because it has great resolution and works whether the person is closer or further away from the camera. And it is now sensitive to much finer movements like fingers on the hands and rotation of the wrists.”

When the time-of-flight engineering team was acquired by Microsoft in 2010, it was up to them to figure the optimal way to add value within the company. “We were really empowered to go talk to product groups and figure out what they needed and to target those opportunities,” Pat says. “It was an entrepreneurial undertaking and we had to prove our mettle.”

What the team created was a camera for Kinect with its own modulated light source and custom sensor. The camera transmits light, which bounces off an object, returns to the sensor, where it measures how long the light took to travel round trip (hence ‘time-of-flight’). As we know the speed of light, the time is used to calculate distance. Because the sensor does this measurement with every one of its quarter million pixels at the same time, it can generate a 3D image with an amazing level of accuracy.

As for the team’s next steps, Swati Mehta, Principal Scientist for Architecture & Silicon Management, says, “Our mission right now is to miniaturize the technology and make it available for mobile and personal devices, and really find applications where we can bring the Kinect ‘wow’ experience to a range of devices.”

Pat continues, “We’re talking to all the teams in the company that are potentially interested. It’s very exciting for us to move the technology into mobile and other devices. We think it will bring some very interesting user experiences in the future.”

Interested in reading more about us? Check out some more employee and team stories here. Want to work with us? See our job listings.

Share this story:

More stories

    Priyanka Sinha Priyanka Sinha Upon completing her graduate degree in Computer...
    Karen Leonard Karen Leonard As a student at the University of Waterloo in...
    MSV MSV Silicon Valley may be best known as the national...
    MSV Evolving the Future MSV Evolving the Future The next generation of technology users will...
    MSV Giving Campaign MSV Giving Campaign Once again, Microsoft Silicon Valley (MSV) proved...
    Daniel Chian Daniel Chian Before landing what he considers his ideal job...
    Dachuan Zhang Dachuan Zhang We all know what PowerPoint does, right? Think...
    Nick Baker Nick Baker Nick Baker is General Manager of Xbox Console...
    Prabin Singh Newa Prabin Singh Newa When Prabin Singh Newa was growing up near Kathmandu,...
    Praful Chavda Praful Chavda Praful Chavda has been front and center with...
    Silicon Valley W@M Silicon Valley W@M The subject of women in technology has made national...
    Niket Mehta Niket Mehta When Niket Mehta was studying for his Masters...
    Marvyn Leroy Marvyn Leroy When Marvyn Leroy left the Windows Services Outlook.com...
    Mohamed Mansour Mohamed Mansour Mohamed Mansour is a hacker and open source developer...
    MSV Team Bike Challenge MSV Team Bike Challenge Microsoft powers bleeding-edge technologies,...
    Lex Sadovyi Lex Sadovyi As a kid in Ukraine, Lex Sadovyi enjoyed playing...
    Sunny Times In Sunnyvale Sunny Times In Sunnyvale Microsoft Silicon Valley is no satellite office....
    Vicky Gkiza Vicky Gkiza As the Principal Group Program Manager for Skype.com,...
    Padma Parthasarathy Padma Parthasarathy Xbox Partner Engineer Padma Parthasarathy was...
    MSV Advancing Social Search MSV Advancing Social Search “One of the great advantages of working...
    Dave Hodson Dave Hodson Dave Hodson grew up in Silicon Valley and started...
    Small MSV Team Creates A Big Product. Small MSV Team Creates A Big Product. After months of speculation and tech blog rumors,...
    Time-of-Flight Sensor Time-of-Flight Sensor In the small world of silicon chip engineering,...
    Sara Ford Sara Ford Sara Ford worked at Microsoft in Redmond for...
    Olof Mases Olof Mases When Olof Mases talks to managers of companies...
    Raj Master Raj Master With over 50 patents and over 80 technical papers...
    Lilian Rincon Lilian Rincon There is little that is conventional about Skype...
    Jeanne Parson Jeanne Parson After completing a degree in classical piano,...
    Skype Qik Skype Qik As a civil engineering student at Cambridge,...
    Giving Campaign Giving Campaign Microsoft Silicon Valley is known for its innovation,...
    Ryan Triggs Ryan Triggs Which of the following did Ryan Triggs do on...
    Priyanka Sinha Priyanka Sinha Upon completing her graduate degree in Computer...
    Karen Leonard Karen Leonard As a student at the University of Waterloo in...
    Daniel Chian Daniel Chian Before landing what he considers his ideal job...
    Dachuan Zhang Dachuan Zhang We all know what PowerPoint does, right? Think...
    Nick Baker Nick Baker Nick Baker is General Manager of Xbox Console...
    Prabin Singh Newa Prabin Singh Newa When Prabin Singh Newa was growing up near Kathmandu,...
    Praful Chavda Praful Chavda Praful Chavda has been front and center with...
    Marvyn Leroy Marvyn Leroy When Marvyn Leroy left the Windows Services Outlook.com...
    Mohamed Mansour Mohamed Mansour Mohamed Mansour is a hacker and open source developer...
    Lex Sadovyi Lex Sadovyi As a kid in Ukraine, Lex Sadovyi enjoyed playing...
    Vicky Gkiza Vicky Gkiza As the Principal Group Program Manager for Skype.com,...
    Padma Parthasarathy Padma Parthasarathy Xbox Partner Engineer Padma Parthasarathy was...
    Dave Hodson Dave Hodson Dave Hodson grew up in Silicon Valley and started...
    Sara Ford Sara Ford Sara Ford worked at Microsoft in Redmond for...
    Olof Mases Olof Mases When Olof Mases talks to managers of companies...
    Raj Master Raj Master With over 50 patents and over 80 technical papers...
    Lilian Rincon Lilian Rincon There is little that is conventional about Skype...
    Jeanne Parson Jeanne Parson After completing a degree in classical piano,...
    Ryan Triggs Ryan Triggs Which of the following did Ryan Triggs do on...
    MSV Evolving the Future MSV Evolving the Future The next generation of technology users will...
    Silicon Valley W@M Silicon Valley W@M The subject of women in technology has made national...
    MSV Team Bike Challenge MSV Team Bike Challenge Microsoft powers bleeding-edge technologies,...
    Sunny Times In Sunnyvale Sunny Times In Sunnyvale Microsoft Silicon Valley is no satellite office....
    MSV Advancing Social Search MSV Advancing Social Search “One of the great advantages of working...