Posted by: fastforward on Aug 09, 2011
Microsoft seems to be the recipient of many a mediocre review and the subject of a less-than-perfect quarterly report recently, particularly when compared to the much loved Apple and Google. But if the piece of technology sitting in my TV room is anything to go by, Bill Gates and Co. may still have something up their sleeve.
Innovations in technology have allowed gaming console manufacturers to break boundaries in the design of controllers and the quest for a realistic gaming experience. When Nintendo put the Wii on the market, the manufacturers of the Playstation (Sony) and Xbox (Microsoft) had to respond. The Wii made motion controlled gaming a mainstream commodity – all you needed to do was hold a controller in your hand and you could do anything from playing tennis to driving a car using their motion-sensitive technology.
Those who were sick of gripping a traditional controller with both hands and pressing rainbow-coloured buttons quickly bought out the Wii stock. Sony then developed the Playstation Move: a controller with a sphere at the end which can be tracked using the Playstation Eye Camera. What did Microsoft do? Well, they chucked the controller all together and created the Xbox Kinect.
The Kinect is a skinny black device reminiscent of a creepy alien web cam. It uses two cameras to scan the room and create a 3D image and an infrared sensor to record depth information, which it uses to track movement. It also has facial and voice recognition software. Which is also creepy. It asks you to look at the camera and then logs you in if you’ve created a profile on your Xbox. You don’t need a controller; you use your body for everything.
To turn the Kinect on, wave at it. To select menu options, simply raise your arm, place your palm towards the screen and slowly move your hand as though you’re performing a Jedi mind trick. When serving during a game of table tennis, try to contain your enthusiasm so as to avoid throwing the ‘ball’ up so high in the air that you smash your hand into the ceiling fan (it happens).
Microsoft sold 8 million devices in the first 60 days after the Kinect launch (yes, that is a world record) and had sold 10 million by March this year – a clear sign that consumers appreciate the freedom of full-body motion controlled gaming. There are plans to bring Kinect to the PC in the future and those clever people over at MIT have already shown how the Kinect can be used to develop the type of gesture-controlled computer interface previously only seen with the help of Hollywood magic in movies like Minority Report.
While the Kinect hasn’t been extremely popular with more hardcore gamers, it’s hoped that continued development and the future release of games like Kinect Star Wars and Mass Effect 3 will help show that the Kinect can do more than just entertain social gamers and demonstrate that the future is in motion controlled gaming.