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We're pretty sure Marke Wahlberg is about to kick this kid's ass at a Kinect game.  (Source: Microsoft)

Kinect's Motion Control scheme is innovative, but it needs a lot of space to work with.  (Source: Engadget)

The reviewers virtually all agreed that Dance Central was the best title for the new device.  (Source: Microsoft)
New Xbox 360 accessory retails for $149 separately or as part of a new $299 bundle

Microsoft's long-awaited motion sensing accessory for the Xbox 360, Kinect, is finally here.  Ex-Microsoft employee Robbie Bach, who helped design the device, previously stated that Kinect (formerly Project Natal) represents a "mid-life" kicker for the console.  It also represents a not-so-subtle admission that Nintendo's Wii motion controls stole the show when it came to the latest round of console wars.

While clearly an attempt to steal the Wii's thunder, Kinect's closest competitor is the recently launched Sony Playstation 3 Move.  Kinect costs $149 USD as a standalone device -- the same price as a Move bundle and extra controller.  You can also get a Kinect as part of a new $299 4GB Xbox 360 bundle (Sony's Move bundle, with two controllers is $460 USD).

Unlike the Move or Wii Microsoft's controller has no buttons.  It relies on a 640x480 central VGA RGB camera and two adjacent cameras to "see" you and track your movements.  Lighting is important -- Microsoft recommends dimmer lighting.  The system also has four microphones to properly pick up whatever grunts or groans you happen to make.

In order to ...err connect Kinect, so to speak, you can conveniently plug the device into the new Kinect port on the revised Xbox 360 hardware which provides it with power and a connection to the console.  On older consoles you must plug-in an AC adapter for power and a USB connector to attach the console to the device.

Wii has Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort, Playstation 3 has Sports Champions, and the Xbox 360 now has Kinect Sports. (Note a trend?)

According to early reviews the games that work best with Kinect are ones that involve full body motion, and the ones that are least successful are ones that focus on specific movements -- such as Kinect Sports.  
Engadget complains of numerous control issues with Kinect Sports and Kinectimals -- an obvious take on Nintendo's Nintendogs virtual pets.

Writes the site:

(Kinectimals) Something of a pet simulator with a much heavier focus on minigames, its utterly cute art style and character design can't mask the aggravation of trying to throw a virtual toy pig into totem polls and having the game non-intuitively launch the projectile out of your hands too early or too late.
...
(Kinect Sports) If Kinect Adventures is the equivalent of Wii Sports Resort, Kinect Sports is just plain Wii Sports -- and we don't say that in a good way. Games like bowling felt inaccurate in the same way Kinectimals had an "underhanded throw" issue, and table tennis has a huge amount of leeway in how you swing -- on numerous occasions, a forehand in real life would turn into a backhand in order to make the on-screen shot.

Gizmodo similarly states:

Having only 1 title out of 17 launch games truly do something compelling and new isn't a very good launch, especially for people who don't like dance games. Right now, the answer to the fundamental question of "are you having fun with Kinect" is, unfortunately, "not really." 

Both sites agree that Dance Central (by the makers of Rock Band) and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved (by Ubisoft) -- both of which focus on full-body movements -- were fairly successful, though.  

Engadget
 comments:

(Dance Central) A crowd favorite. The Rock Band gurus at Harmonix have made a rhythm game that's, well, Rock Band for choreographed dance. It's the kind of thing that really highlights what Kinect can do -- track your movement, actually teach you dance, and provide all the embarrassment you ever asked for. We had a lot of fun with this one, despite it continually punishing us for misaligned arm movements and the occasional confusion as to which foot we step out with first. 
...
(Your Shape) Ubisoft's exercise game is the other great example of Kinect's potential. The menu system feels fast (despite using the hovering technique), your on-screen avatar is eerily accurate (some amalgamation of your infrared position and your monochrome visage -- if you're wearing a collard shirt, it'll show the buttons), and the skeletal mapping is added to the equation as another check to how accurately you're maintaining proper Tai Chi positions -- yes, it'll deduct points for not bending your knees as low as the virtual instructor demands.

And Gizmodo opines:

If motion games until now were like boxing, Kinect is like kickboxing. You can use your freaking legs!! Your Shape: Fitness Evolved is like Wii Fit if Wii Fit
...
I really, really love Dance Central as the epitome of the platform. Learning to dance is embarrassing enough, and dance classes reveal your lack of rhythm to 15-30 people at a time. But with this? Nobody knows except you and your living room. It might be somewhat niche in that it appeals to people who enjoy dancing games, or music games, or rhythm games, but it also shows what developers can do when they take full advantage of the technology that Kinect gives them. Think of what else you can learn in the privacy of your underwear.
actually knew if you were keeping your back straight or arms held out, instead of cheating by sitting on the couch.

Most of the other launch titles sound more like stinkers than winners, based on the early reviews.  Kinect Adventures, the title that comes bundled with the device drew mixed reviews.

One other common complaint is that the device needs a lot of space -- which may make it inapplicable to city folk living in cramped residences in places like New York City or Los Angeles.

Ars Technica writes:

There is also the issue of space: you need a lot of it to play multiplayer games, or to be comfortable playing single-player games. Take a peek at that sample living room image again—if your room doesn't look like a wide open gymnasium with a ton of clearance, you're going to have problems. The Move doesn't have these limitations, and most games will work just as well if you're sitting on your couch or standing in front of your screen. The Move will work in nearly any environment, where the Kinect helpfully suggests you move your couch out of the way and may chide you for having a playing space that's too small. There are going to be many potential customers who simply don't have the space near their systems to play Kinect games. That seems terribly limiting for a product that Microsoft hopes will have wide appeal.

The poor folks at Gizmodo apparently struggled with these woes as well, battling to get the device to properly respond in their cramped New York City apartment.

All three reviews took some issue with the beefy 60 MB footprint of Kinect, which cuts the available memory for game titles from 512 MB to 452 MB.

All three sites praised the inclusion of voice controls -- including pause/play/rewind/etc. with ESPN, Last.fm, and Zune.  They say that while the voice controls haven't been implemented across the board, but are welcome when found.  They also say that the video chat is pretty slick and well implemented.

The best way to describe the reviews collectively as lukewarm.  They seemed to like the device, but weren't quite as enthusiastic as with the Nintendo Wii or, to a lesser extent, the Playstation Move.

Microsoft is certainly dreaming big, though -- it's predicting that it will sell 5 million Kinect units during the Q4 2010.  While that may be possible given thee bundling with the Xbox 360 console, it remains to be seen whether the device is met with as much enthusiasm as the Wii's motion controller.

The company also faces questions about its decision to take $500M USD and use it on an advertising campaign, when many point out that total would be enough to simply 
give away 3.3 million Kinect units.

Going buttonless was a gamble for Microsoft and it may yet pay off.  But it's a very unproven concept even compared to the Wii.  And the biggest problem (aside from the relative lack of strong launch titles) for Microsoft may be space.  If Microsoft wants to unload loads of the devices, that may be problematic given that many apartment dwellers are automatically overlooked due to lack of sufficient space.  As Zoolander would say "How can we expect people to love Kinect... if they can't even fit it inside their building?"



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RE: Meh
By lolmuly on 11/4/2010 12:24:03 PM , Rating: 2
How is the technology in this any better than that for the eye toy on ps2? It doesn't sound as if it is any more accurate.

Furthermore why would anybody expect this not to flop just as badly?

It sounds to me like the only reason Microsoft has released this joke of a product is to follow the same development path that sony did by eventually adding hand held motion controllers to their setup, and using the camera to improve the accuracy of on screen control.

Add some hand held motion controllers, add a set of 3D LCD glasses for the display, add a an emotiv epoch, and maybe integrate the whole system into one headset... Then we'll talk business.


RE: Meh
By superPC on 11/4/2010 12:31:57 PM , Rating: 2
there's a reason DDR doesn't use eyetoy (eyetoy was launcehd in 2003 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EyeToy and there are lots of DDR games after it comes out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dance_Dance_Revolutio... ).

obviously kinect can do so much more than eyetoy otherwise eyetoy would've been use in more motion control titles.


RE: Meh
By Spivonious on 11/4/2010 12:45:37 PM , Rating: 3
Eyetoy did simple 2D motion capture and that was it.

Kinect does 3D motion capture, facial recognition, and voice recognition. It can tell if you're moving your arm towards the screen or away from it. It can tell that the dog walking in front of you is not you.

Extremely neat technology, and I can't wait to see what developers do with it.


RE: Meh
By Mitch101 on 11/4/2010 2:43:45 PM , Rating: 2
Thats a Great Explanation

As the owner of an EyeToy it would respond to any movement or changes in the background. If I was in the background of the game and moved my chair or changed something the eye toy would believe that change in background was part of the person and would effect the game. If it wasn't brightly lit in the room the eyetoy would have problems with detection. Still it was a lot of fun just had its quirks.

Kinetic is the second generation of something like EyeToy it has the ability to determine you from the environment and you from someone else and since it uses infrared it can do much better in lower light conditions. It does distance as well something the eye toy could not do so if you kick or punch forward toward the screen it knows.

Eyetoy would only work for side to side movement and its hard to fight when you head is toward the TV and your body must punch kick side to side. Limited but again very fun.

Not all games translate well for this stuff so I expect some games will fail miserably like the eye toy had super monkey ball in a mini game and it was horrible.

Right controller for the right game that's all.


RE: Meh
By Smilin on 11/4/2010 5:44:16 PM , Rating: 3
If you got to see a beta device there was a NUIview utility that would really give you a sense of how Kinect "sees".

It absolutely picks people out from the room. It's designed to recognize the human shape and it can show a webcam view of just you in the room with everything else clipped out.

It can then take the webcam view and map it like a texture over the polygons of your 3d body.

This allows a wierd thing (in nuiview) where you could view an image of yourself standing in the room from say overhead. It was as if there was a camera mounted on your ceiling (or floor or side wall) when in fact the camera was straight ahead.

I've SEEN what Kinect does and eyetoy is just a cute little trinket. Sorry fanboys. Dems the facts.

quote:
Right controller for the right game that's all.

Well said. Just because a square peg doesn't fit in a round hole doesn't mean there is something wrong with the peg. It won't be an awesome controller for a 3d shooter. (mind you I think move, wii 'chuks, traditional console controller all suck for 3d shooters)


RE: Meh
By lolmuly on 11/4/2010 7:15:20 PM , Rating: 2
agreed, wii chucks do suck, and there's nothing all that special about the eye toy. How exactly is this thing going to sell though? sure there's more to the camera, but what can they do with the camera alone that's all that much better? I don't see where this scenario fits into gaming.....

it will have serious applications if they add in hand held controllers like they did with the playstation (and it will probably be more accurate) but until then, why even bother selling the camera by itself?

as i mentioned above, I'm really not a fan of any of this stuff until they start blending it all together to make a true first person gaming system.


RE: Meh
By Aloonatic on 11/5/2010 4:02:53 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I've SEEN what Kinect does and eyetoy is just a cute little trinket. Sorry fanboys. Dems the facts.
Amazingly, there has been very little fanboy activity here, apart from your "cute little trinket" jab that is.

Anyways, anyone know how much processing power the Kinect uses/requires? Is it all done on the xBox or is anything done on the Kinect camera unit?

It looks to have great potential, does anyone know if the same unit will be used on the next xBox, which can't be all that far away?

I have a Wii and PS3, and could probably make the space for Kinect. As it stands, I'd rather invest in a new xBox with Kinect than buy PS3 move controllers and games that will probably just be HD versions of what I've already grown tired of on the Wii, just without Mario or Zelda. This will be a much easier decision to make if the Kinect unit will be used in the next gen xBox.


RE: Meh
By someguy123 on 11/7/2010 2:22:13 AM , Rating: 2
Everything is done in camera. There may be some overhead for reading the data but otherwise I don't believe the 360 is doing much processing, if any, for the camera.


RE: Meh
By someguy123 on 11/7/2010 2:20:34 AM , Rating: 2
I can see the problem with the wiimotes jittery movement, kinects lack of tactile input, and regular controllers being forced to drag your crosshair....but what's wrong with the move wand? Works fine for shooters from what I've seen and played at conventions. Maybe you can make the case that there's not enough buttons but there's nothing that says shooters need to require as many buttons as they do nowadays.


RE: Meh
By Smilin on 11/4/2010 5:49:55 PM , Rating: 3
quote:

Furthermore why would anybody expect this not to flop just as badly?


I've played one for months now (can finally spill the beans without breaking my friends NDA). It absolutely will not flop. They are gonna sell a bajillion of these things and people are going to have a blast.

Hardcore gamer is not the same thing as "fun game hater". Even the hardcore folks (like me... 30hrs/wk of 3dshooters) are gonna have fun.


"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates














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