Sunday, November 7, 2010

Xbox Kinect..... R.I.P. Wii

I've been waiting a long time since I first saw it debuted as Project Natal, I finally got my hands on Microsoft Kinect Xbox 360's new motion sensing peripheral.  Kinect takes a different approach to motion based controls than the Wii or even PS3 bypassing controllers of any kind for a sensor capable of capturing motion and providing true "controller free" gaming.  I was very skeptical that this would actual work as promised but I have to say my skepticism was laid to rest once I got a chance to try it myself.

Diving into the box you have your typical Xbox 360 setup plus the Kinect sensor bar pictured to the right. This sensor bar is stuffed full of high tech goodness. Before you scoff at the $150 price tag understand this is not just a camera.  Kinect sits on a motorized pivoting base that allows it to adjust itself for an optimal viewing angle.  Housed inside the "bar" part Kinect features an RGB camera, depth sesnor and 4 microphones running software that allows full body 3D motion capture, facial recognition and voice recognition. The 4 mic setup allows Kinect to  locate your voice and suppress ambient noise in your surroundings for things like party chat without having to use headsets.  Kinect also uses a inrared projector to "see" in 3D under any ambient light conditions.  This 3D view helps Kinect calibrate and adjust to varying setups, player positioning and the presence of furniture or any other object.  Kinect is capable of simultaneously tracking up to 6 people. In addition to gaming Kinect adds voice navigation to some of menus and media playback.

After the last few years playing the Wii I honestly had lost faith in the concept of motion sensing based video games. I mean teh Wii is definitely fun but after playing some of the games you definitely see it has some major limitations that I think Kinect may be able to over come.  Kinect provides a much more immersive gaming experience because it can "see" you.  It can track your body movements, log you in with facial recognition, obey your voice commands and take pictures of you and lay that over the 3D image of you putting you right in the game.  I am not only impressed with the games I've tried so far but with the potential of Kinect.  The dance game Dance Central absolutely amazed me.  Unlike most dance games you aren't just stepping on arrows or buttons along to a beat.  This thing actually watches your movements! You've got to move your hips, arms and legs to the beat.  Kinect is sensitive enough to know if your half-assing it and it will be reflected in your scores! I highly recommend dropping into your local Bestbuy to give Kinect a try its one of those things you just have to try for yourself.

The add on for your Xbox 360 cost $150 or you can get a bundle with Kinect and the newer slimmer sleeker Xbox 360 S and games are strategically placed at $50 (just like Wii titles). I grabbed mine at mid-night at Bestbuy and got a small gift package with a Kinect bag, water bottle and towel, all of which were appreciated after working up a sweat playing Kinect Adventures the bundled game that comes along with Kinect. 

One down side to Kinect is the fact that you need space! Microsoft recommends at least 6-8ft between Kinect and the playing area; and that's just the minimum recommendation.  You obviously would want to have more space for two player games and would want to move furniture out of the way. I found that the space in my basement is just a little too small for optimal play space after nearly breaking my toe attempting to kick a virtual ball and hitting my head on the ceiling while jumping over a virtual hurdle.

Kinect can be mounted below or above the TV.  Placing it above the TV seems to help in a less than ideal sized space; Bestbuy sells a special mount to securely place your Kinect on top of your TV for $40 bucks. Unfortunately, this  mount does not work with TV's that are mounted on the wall, so to remedy this situation I created my own wall mount for about 8 bucks.  A piece of wood, a shelf mount, a few screws and some black spray paint and BOOM a custom Kinect mount!

Video source and for more detail visit Engadget's full review


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