By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
Microsoft's Kinect is a rare product because not only does it work 100 per cent as advertised, it exceeded everyone's expectations on the possibilities of true controller-free motion gaming. Having sold 8 million units in 60 days, the Kinect is a big hit for Microsoft that could change the landscape of gaming.
Using a RGB camera, depth sensor and multi-array microphone running proprietary software, which provide full-body 3D motion capture, facial recognition and voice recognition capabilities. Kinect constantly scans a fixed area much like sonar. This capture and recognition is so precise that Kinect can knows who exactly is in its field of coverage.
Kinect plus the XBox 360 then work together to ensure that your movements are carefully translated to that of the avatars in the game. They move when you move in real-time.
Using the Kinect with our existing older model Xbox 360, requires a number of work arounds. You first need to position the Kinect either above or directly below the TV screen. We discourage perching the Kinect above the TV screen unless it is on a solid surface. You can get a proprietary sensor mount (above) but we still think it is best to place the Kinect on a solid and secure surface.
Once the Kinect is positioned properly you need to deal with the wiring. Most of the Kinect pictures you see show jut the sensor so opening the box and seeing the mess of wires (which need to be added to your own collection of wires) is quite discouraging. The Kinect needs to be powered and it also needs to connect to the XBox 360.
Here's the problem, the older XBox only has one port at the back and this is where we usually have the Wi-Fi adaptor. To add the Kinect, you need to reroute the Wi-Fi adaptor to the USB port in the front by way of an included USB adaptor. The solution is inelegant and kludgy, but it works.
Once installed, the Kinect calibrates its surroundings and makes sure your have optimal space and distance in order to play the games.
This is a major consideration because the area required to play Kinect is roughly 6m², although the sensor can maintain tracking through an extended range of approximately 0.7–6 m (2.3–20 ft).
Having said that, you will need to rearrange your furniture and free up space for up to two people to jump, tilt, run in place and dance.
If you can do this, you are good to go.
Half the magic of the Kinect is the software which talks to the games and gives precision and accuracy to the players' movement. Once the device is properly installed you really don't need to worry about it anymore. Each game has a brief tutorial showing you what moves are needed to play.
The standalone Kinect ($149.99) bundle ships with Kinect Adventures, a series of party games that serve as the perfect introduction to motion gaming and are fun enough to draw in even the most skeptical gamers. One of the more popular games within Kinect Adventures is River Rush. River Rush can be played by up to two players who need to work together to guide a raft across raging rapids where they need to dodge, jump and swerve around obstacles.
The Kinect doesn't only require you to get off the couch, it compels you to put effort into your movements. The result is an engaging, physically demanding experience that is as much fun to watch as it is to participate in.
As a spectator, you can have great fun watching friends and family engaged in the games or you can watch the game and see just how accurately the avatars are performing. Some of the games, like Reflex Ridge, which is a track and field inspired obstacle course, are thoroughly exhausting. Anyone who isn't in shape will be panting their way through this game even at the lowest levels.
Exaggerating movements (like when running in place) sometimes gives you and advantage but there really are no short cuts, you have to put in the work to get the results.
Kinect is excellent for groups to play because while some players are resting, other players can engage in the games. Kinect Adventures is a good introduction to the gaming system but there are only two or three games there that are really worth going back to which means you'll want to check out the other Kinect games to really get the most out of the controller.
The built-in camera also records photos throughout the gaming session and saves these for playback later on. It is fun to see people in silly poses and adds to the social aspect of the games. You can email or share these photos if you want to but please don't.
The good news is that some of the better games for Kinect are still on their way. Microsoft has no doubt invested in delivering a great and consistent array of games for the Kinect. You can also use Kinect to control the Xbox 360 for playing back music and video files through voice and movement. Kinect will work with online content services such as Zune music and movies, Netflix, Hulu and ESPN.
With the Kinect, consumers will be able to browse, watch, pause and resume movies and music with a wave of their hand or using the sound of their own voices. The new Avatar Kinect service will also give Kinect owners an innovative and fresh way to socialize on the Xbox 360.
The best thing about Kinect is that it is easy to learn. Your body really is the controller and we finally have a video game accessory that not only trains your brain or finger reflexes but involves your entire body in a fun and engaging way. Considering the Kinect prototype cost $30,000, then the $150 you pay to enhance your existing XBox 360 doesn't seem too steep. $400 gets you a new XBox 360 with a 250GB hard drive and the Kinect controller.
Rating: 4 out of 5