Kinect: Put The Controller Down

Posted on November 11, 2010

Nintendo took a chance by offering motion controls to the mainstream, giving people who might otherwise be intimidated by loads of buttons an intuitive alternative. Instead of fumbling with a controller, gamers could play tennis by swinging the remote or roll their ball down the alley by making the motion with the controller.

Nintendo’s gamble paid off in a big way, and it was only a matter of time before rivals Sony and Microsoft made their play at the same newly invigorated market. Sony took a fairly traditional strategy with Move, marrying motion controls with an LED that gives the system a better sense of positional space. Microsoft’s Kinect went in the opposite direction, boiling Nintendo’s philosophy down to its essence. Why use a controller at all? Why not just use your body to play games?

That approach invited plenty of skepticism. Would it work as promised? How accurate could it really be? Would the games be any good? We’ve spent a considerable amount of time with the Kinect hardware and a wide array of launch titles, and we can say that while it’s far from perfect, Microsoft’s device opens up some interesting opportunities.

Getting Kinected
“I think four million is underselling it a bit,” says Kudo Tsunoda, smiling slightly. He’s talking about an analyst’s recent proclamation that Microsoft’s Kinect will sell four million units over the fourth quarter of 2010 alone. As general manager of Microsoft Game Studios, Tsunoda definitely has a dog in that fight. Tsunoda has also taken on the role of Kinect’s public ambassador, showing it off at its E3 debut back when it was called Project Natal, and popping up on Jimmy Fallon’s show to play Kinect Adventures with Miranda Cosgrove.

So yeah, Tsunoda is a little hyped on Kinect.

“It’s not only the first batch that’s going to sell,” he continues. “As more and more people get it, it kind of has an avalanche effect. I think four million is a nice number to put out there, but I really believe we’re going to be able to do a lot more than that.”

It’s easy to get excited about Kinect when you’re on its payroll, but what about the rest of us?

Kinect’s technology and business plans invite a healthy dose of skepticism. First up, there’s the price. If you want to get into Kinect gaming, you have one of two options. The device and a pack-in game, Kinect Adventures, retails for $149. The console bundle sells for $299, which includes Kinect, Kinect Adventures, and an Xbox 360 S with 4GB of storage space. Tsunoda is quick to defend the cost, saying that after players spring for that initial price, they’re done. Unlike other devices, such as Move or the Wii, players don’t have to pay for additional controllers if they want to play multiplayer games with their friends.

Price is also connected to the next major Kinect question: Are the games any good? Specifically, are the games good enough to warrant that $150 investment? Before we get too far, let’s step back and get a refresher course on Kinect.

Kinect combines a variety of separate technologies into a single package. The device bathes the immediate area in invisible infrared light, which is then detected by a special camera. That camera works in conjunction with its partner – essentially a webcam – to differentiate a person from the background. Several microphones are housed in Kinect as well, enabling it to detect voice commands.

It’s already possible to play games that use cameras on the three major consoles; that’s nothing special. The real innovation comes in the software. Players can register themselves with the system through a quick succession of scans, after which the system will always recognize them. That opens up a range of possibilities, including the ability to log on a user on sight, pick their avatar when they join in a game, and more.

The microphones are arranged in such a way that they can detect a user’s position in a room. They also do a terrific job of ignoring background noises. I’ve been able to flawlessly direct a movie to stop, pause, and fast forward by using my regular speaking voice – without any kind of previous calibration – on an extremely busy show floor.

Go to Source (Game Informer)

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Categories: Game News, Game Secrets


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