Microsoft’s Kinect launched today, so naturally I picked one up to review for you guys. I like to spend time with products before giving my full review (Boxee Box review coming soon), there are issues with products that only show up after extended use.
Setup was a breeze, made easier by owning a Xbox 360 Slim with that special orange port to power Kinect. This works great, minimizing cables and avoiding yet another power plug (current power board is already full). After firing up the Xbox there was an update (expected with anything new these days), then a short setup wizard and your all set.
The Kinect is made up of a 3D depth sensor, microphone array, and video camera. The glossy black unit also contains motors to tilt the Kinect up and down, this is used on startup to detect the floor plane. This is used by games to ensure your feet start at the floor and there’s no floating in the air. The initial controlling of the interface with hand gestures seems abnormal, but after a while you begin to realise, your getting your Minority Report on !! This really is amazing technology packed in a well constructed hardware peripheral. Strangely navigating inside games actually felt like a smoother experience, so hopefully Microsoft update the Dashboard to match.
A strange downside of being an Australian is that we have an Australian accent. Something Kinect apparently cannot support, at least not yet. Microsoft have decided that rather than using the US voice detection and get things wrong, the voice commands are unavailable in Australia. Tweets online suggest that its coming early in 2011, but given this shows up in Kinect commercials, its expected this feature will be available.
So far I’ve spent around 4 hours hands-on with Kinect across 3 games. Dance Central, Your Fitness, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and Kinectimals. Kinect also comes with Kinect Adventures, so be sure too look out for a review of that one as well. After consulting twitter, I started with Dance Central. Fortunately guys, this provide an ‘easy’ difficulty for those of us who are blessed with touch typing skills, but two left feet. I really enjoyed playing through a few songs and appreciated they were name songs from big artists, yey for content deals !
After I’d danced up a sweat, I continued the workout with Fitness Evolved. This game is like having your own personal trainer. After an initial scan of your body and you entering a couple of extra details like your weight (I’m sure Kinect 2 will have that), the game begins to track the calories you’ve burnt off. Exercises are great, challenging, yet doable, then when your done training, there’s also some fitness games to play. These really take advantage of the Kinect technology, like being able to punch virtual boxes, giving you a workout you didn’t know you were getting, that game is just plain fun. Remember this style of fitness has one massive thing going for it.. Achievements. Sure loosing a few kgs should be reward enough for putting in the hard work, but earning achievements is great motivation to go back time and time again.
The last game for the day was Kinectimals. While my lion cub is cute as hell, and driving a RC car was a new experience, I think this game will really be best received by the young ones. One element of this game that demonstrated massive future potential in Kinect is the ability to move left and right and change the camera angle. This could be applied in so many ways, some we haven’t even thought of. So while these games are all well made, solid launch titles, Kinects true potential will only shine after 12-24 months in developers hands.
Check out the gallery of Kinect photos below.
Very promising indeed.. stay tuned.