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.  


(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,, 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?"

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

Most Popular Articles

Copyright 2018 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki