Microsoft’s Kinect is “awesome”

Microsoft recently hosted an open day for UK and Ireland MVPs.  Despite the work that went into organising the event, it was mostly a huge disappointment - we don’t really get told much that’s not in the public domain already – but it did give me a chance to have a go with the new Xbox Kinect and, even as a non-gamer, I was pretty much blown away (indeed, there may even be some video floating around of me “doing a Lady Gaga” to Dance Central…)

Microsoft Xbox 360sKinect was codenamed Protect Natal and is a natural user interface (NUI) that works with any Xbox. Microsoft’s Andrew Lee explained that Kinect is a sensor using with three cameras: one RGB that is used for facial recognition (once it’s initially told who you are); and two motion depth sensors that create a three-dimensional mapping zone to allow physical gestures to become controls.  The initial games track 20 main body points but Kinect has the capability to be more accurate.  It also has a microphone to access voice commands [correction July 2011: there are actually four microphones in order to recognise the noise direction] and a tilt motor in the base so that Kinect can be adjusted/calibrated according to the size of the play space and the player.

There’s little doubt that Kinect makes games incredibly immersive and involving. Anyone can step up and have a go with no previous skill level required (as we proved, playing Kinect Sports in the hotel…).

Microsoft is supporting controller-based games but Kinect complements them. There are some Kinect-specific titles at launch with more “synergy titles” in future (offering a fuller experience with Kinect – Harry Potter will allow spell casting, mixing potions, etc.).

Kinect adventures is bundled with Kinect and is a great showcase for the technology. Other launch titles (RRP £39.99) are:

  • Dance Central
  • Kinect Joyride
  • Kinectimals
  • Kinect Sports

Microsoft hopes that Kinect will take the Xbox out of bedroom and into the living room. Other Xbox features such as Live, Zune movies, Sky TV and Last.FM all become Kinect-enabled. I’m still hoping that we get BBC iPlayer and LoveFilm on the Xbox (NetFlix is available in the states). There’s an online arcade service too.

When Kinect is present, a room preview is shown in the Xbox dashboard and all that’s required to operate it is to hold up a hand and swipe left. There’s no need to train Kinect to recognise your voice for audio commands but there is no “Xbox off” yet… Also, some Live services are not Kinect enabled and the standard controller may be better for navigation.

The Kinect sensor’s RRP is £129.99 and it’s possible to pick up combinations with an Xbox and a sensor from around £249.99. One thing’s for sure… there will be a 250GB Xbox 360 with Kinect heading to the Wilson household soon…

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