Back at E3 2009, Kinect (then code named Project Natal) was introduced to the world as Microsoft’s answer to the Wii’s motion controls. At E3 2010, I got to see how far along the technology had come, games made for it were on display. I, along with many others, made fun the Kinect and all of its shortcomings during E3. It would be about four months later when I actually got to experience firsthand what Kinect is all about.
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Motion Tracking Technology Works- Unlike the Wiimote which uses sensors in the controller and a receiver, Kinect uses an infrared sensor, 3D-depth sensors and a regular web camera. The combination of the three technologies results in more accurate motion tracking that the Wii can do. The IR sensors scan the room and players, creating an image for the 3D depth sensors to translate the images picked up on the web camera into to track the motions of the players. If there’s a change in the environment, the Kinect will adjust itself for optimal performance.
Hands Free Navigation - As soon as Kinect has been calibrated, players will be able to browse the Dashboard hands free. It will take some getting used to, but it makes browsing much easier. Hands free navigation works really well and gives off a Minority Report feel to it.
Voice And Face/Body Recognition - Kinect uses some really cool tech to get it to work. The most interesting of all its features is the voice and face body recognition feature. After calibrating the Kinect the ability to enable voice commands and face/body recognition are enabled. Voice commands are simple but effective, such as “Xbox, open/close tray, cancel, forward, back, play game” etc. Face and body recognition is the other interesting aspect of the device. Once calibrating the voice commands the Kinect will take a couple pictures and scans of your face and body. Once that’s done, the next time you use the Kinect it will scan your body and face and will automatically sign in to your XBL profile.
Needs Room….LOTS Of Room - Even with all the fancy technology, there is one major flaw to Kinect, and that flaw is the room the Kinect is in. It requires at least 8 feet between its position and the player in order to capture every motion properly, which is why it scans the room when first booting it up. If the room is too small, or if there’s something in the way it will tell you to make room by either having Kinect in a bigger room or moving stuff around. Now for the average family with a one story house or in a small apartment complex, this will present a problem.
Price Is A Bit High - $149.99 is way too high for an add-on to a system. That’s about the same price for a new Wii or a DS right now, or a HDD for the 360, three or four new games or three new controllers. The price might drive away parents looking to find a way to get the family to play video games together.
Only A Handful Of Must Haves - Right now there are only a couple of games that are worth buying for the Kinect, excluding the exercise games. The most notable are Dance Central from EA and Harmonix, Kinect Adventures (the pack-in game), Kinectimals from Microsoft, and Kinect Sports from Rare. Out of the 20 launch games, these games have been the most fun and interesting to play. Has Its Limits - Being new to motion control, the Kinect does have its problems and limits. One example is the inability to browse NetFlix using Kinect. This might sound like a small complaint, but it was advertised that NetFlix would support Kinect. So far no software update for Kinect or NetFlix has been released to fix this oversight. Another limit that the Kinect has lies in certain motion controls in certain games. There is a noticeable delay in some games when performing a motion, such as punching or kicking. While it’s not common in all the games, games that require rapid movement will have a delay. Another limit to the motion control of Kinect is that even though it captures the body’s movements, not all of the body’s natural movement is captured. Wrists and ankle joints are not properly captured and feel stiff. This may sound like a small detail, but when you consider that activities such as soccer, table tennis, tennis, golf and many others utilize those joints to alter their movements, having these joints captured correctly can enhance gameplay.
After being able to experience Kinect and some of its available games, the Kinect is no longer the joke we thought it was. It has lived up to some of the hype and promises made by Microsoft when they first announced it back in 2009. The control-free browsing, voice/body recognition, and the games built for the Kinect work really well. But for what works, there are drawbacks such as needing a lot of room to play, no support for NetFlix or any of the other apps on the dashboard, the high price point of $149.99 and the fact that there are only a few must-own games for the add on. Even with these faults, I found myself having fun playing games like Dance Central and Kinect Sports and even got my parents, who don’t play video games much, playing along and moving around. If you can afford the $149.99 and have plenty of space, buy Kinect for the family. Once they get hooked onto it, you can move them onto chainsawing some Locust in Gears 2.
- Mike V.
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