First Impressions of Microsoft's Kinect - It's a hit!

Bill Loguidice's picture

Well, chalk me up as surprised, but my first impression of Microsoft's new Kinect is that it's a rousing success for what it's intended for, much moreso than Sony's PlayStation Move or Nintendo's Wii Motion+. I had preordered the standard Kinect bundle, which comes with "Kinect Adventures", from Amazon, along with "Dance Central", as part of a special promotion. It arrived yesterday, which was the official street date when retailers were authorized to actually sell the thing (there were only a few cases of a broken street date). As is usual for a Microsoft product, it's a rather convoluted and bulky setup, but since it actually works, I can't be too critical of that aspect of the device. By the way, as a point of full disclosure up front, as luck would have it, we probably have the ideal family room setup for motion games, with a generous amount of space between the TV and any other obstacles, like our sofas, so, unless you want to move furniture to make the necessary 6 - 10 feet or so of clear space (you want a generous rectangle), know that your mileage will definitely vary from mine in terms of hassle-free play (you'll generally need a less space for Move and Motion+).

I have the old style white Xbox 360, and, as such, I was required to plug the Kinect into the rear USB port and then plug in yet another (albeit small) wall wart (this is necessary, because, among other things, the camera can turn on its own). If I had the new style Xbox 360 slim, it has an accessory port that the Kinect can draw power from directly. Anyway, for those of us with the old style Xbox 360's (which is probably most of us), they also give a small USB extension cable so the wireless networking card dongle can plug into the front USB port, since the rear USB port is a requirement for Kinect. Ugly. However, in my particular setup, both my 360's still have HD-DVD drives attached to them (yeah, I admitted it), which is where I have my wireless dongle attached to, so in fact I didn't need the extender as I could just plug the USB cord from my HD-DVD drive to the front USB port. Needless to say, with the old style white Xbox 360, a USB plug sticking out of one of the two front USB ports and the HD-DVD drive next to it (along with an old style memory card that keeps my sign-ins portable), it's hardly a sleek looking setup, though my launch ("fat") PS3 hardly looks much better since I have the PlayStation Eye camera always plugged into one of the front four USB ports. Looks aside, plugging it all in was logical and went smoothly.

Even though I had already updated my system a few days ago, upon detecting the Kinect attached to it on startup, my 360 still wanted to download another update (which I believe was the actual Kinect interface). The process was fairly smooth as is usual on the 360 (it's painful on the PS3 and not frequent enough on the Wii to be much of an issue either way). While I don't want to bore you with all of the details, there was a calibration process, including testing how noisy my environment was (since it has a built-in microphone array and features speech recognition). Everything passed. A little later in the process, I associated my face with my avatar (it does facial recognition to know who's who) and went through an interesting calibration process where I had to stand at various points in my room and mimic poses on screen. Again, all smooth and not a big deal.

With all of the initial setup and calibration done, I tried a few of the interface features out. It has its own Kinect menu system that you can activate by saying waving your hand or saying "Xbox" (the voice recognition has thus far been perfect). Once that happens, you're in the menu system, which you can navigate with simple hand gestures (and essentially resting your hand briefly on a certain spot) or by saying "Xbox" and then saying whatever it is you want to activate that happens to be on the screen at the time (for instance, "Eject disc"). In short, it works and works well. What disappoints me is that I had assumed that the Kinect interface would be pervasive through the whole 360 menu system, but thus far (at least as far I can tell), it only works in this exclusive menu system. I don't know if there's a way to add applications to it, but right now it's missing one of my most used items, Netflix, which I still have to access the traditional way. I'll see if that gets updated at some point.

In any case, beyond the voice recognition and standard gesture recognition, there's a universal way to pause a Kinect game (or Kinect-enabled app), which is to simply hold your left arm slightly away from your side and back, and have your right arm at your side. After a few seconds the pause menu options activate, including all of your standard dashboard stuff. A simple, but effective way to get around the whole "no controller" thing.

I only had a chance to try a few mini-games in "Kinect Adventures", but hope to try "Dance Central" tonight or tomorrow with the family, which will really be an interesting point of comparison since we love "Just Dance" on the Wii, but Just Dance's tracking algorithm with the standard Wii remote is pure garbage. A short time with "Kinect Adventures" was enough though to truly convince me of the Kinect's potential and how it's radically different from the Sony and Nintendo offerings. The tracking has thus far been nearly perfect, knowing where my head, arms, legs and torso were just about all of the time. It's NOT accurate enough to detect individual fingers (it sees your whole hand as a block) and I'm not sure if the technology will ever be accurate enough to detect that this generation, but just tracking those major bodyparts already puts it leagues ahead of what I've experienced thus far with the Sony and Nintendo offerings. It's truly a liberating feeling not having ANY controller and definitely a generational leap from the old PlayStation 2 EyeToy camera. In any case, in "Kinect Adventures", I played "Rally Ball", which was one of the famous demos from the first E3 unveiling where you serve and swat at balls with your limbs, sort of like a combo of racquetball and Breakout. This worked well and it was probably the first videogame experience I can recall where I had to use both arms and legs to play in that manner. As such, it took a bit more coordination than I had at the time, though I'm sure I'll get better at it with practice. The second mini-game I played was "River Rush", where you have to navigate a raft through a crazy river course (sort of like "Hydro Thunder" without the competition). This was great fun, as I had to scurry left and right like a crab to steer and then jump to lift the raft into the air. It had the same frenetic energy that a good game of the aforementioned "Hydro Thunder" has, except I was the controller. Great fun, and I'm sure it will be even more fun with a second player (I imagine trying to coordinate your movements with a second player would be more frustrating than two player "New Super Mario Bros. Wii"...).

On a side note, after I changed and put my glasses on, I had to have it recognize my face again. Now it has my glasses-less face and glasses face in its database associated with my gamertag. Apparently each time you have it re-scan your face (different times of day, different lighting, etc.), it will get better and better at recognizing you.

Now, with all the above in mind, I have read many mixed reviews. Some were ecstatic about it like me and others had the usual tracking/delay issues associated with all these devices, so again, your mileage may certainly vary based on your environmental conditions. At least based on my conditions, it's some exciting technology with a lot of promise, even if right now it's just from having really fun whole body activities and an experience like no other to date. Keep in mind though that it will give you quite the workout even in non-workout games (of which a cavalcade of them are coming), and, as with all motion based gaming, more often than not after a long day I'd rather just sit on the couch and press some buttons, so I'm certainly aware this is not for full-time gaming or for that matter, people who don't want to get up and be active when they want to game.

I'll update the comments with my further impressions, including of "Dance Central", after I get some more time with it all.

Did you get Kinect too? I'd love to hear your thoughts on that and of course even on Move and Motion+.

Comments

Bill Loguidice
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Kinect sells 2.5 Million in

Kinect sells 2.5 Million in first 25 days: http://majornelson.com/archive/2010/11/29/kinect-sells-2-5-million-in-fi...

The completely controller free aspect and better launch titles (particularly Dance Central) are no doubt the main reasons behind Kinect's greater success over Move. I think the advertising and co-branding have been stronger overall on the Kinect side as well.

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Rowdy Rob
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PR success!
Bill Loguidice wrote:

The completely controller free aspect and better launch titles (particularly Dance Central) are no doubt the main reasons behind Kinect's greater success over Move. I think the advertising and co-branding have been stronger overall on the Kinect side as well.

The Kinect has certainly been a PR success story! I don't even watch (much) TV, and I've seen the Kinect commercials several times, and many write-ups in the press about it. I haven't heard (or seen) a peep about the PS3 Move controller. Kinect = success, but "Move" seems to be a PR disaster.

Bill Loguidice
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Move and Kinect
Rowdy Rob wrote:

The Kinect has certainly been a PR success story! I don't even watch (much) TV, and I've seen the Kinect commercials several times, and many write-ups in the press about it. I haven't heard (or seen) a peep about the PS3 Move controller. Kinect = success, but "Move" seems to be a PR disaster.

I don't know if disaster is the right word for Move - it certainly seems to have moved a respectable, if unspectacular, number of units - but there is a fundamental problem with Move versus Kinect in my opinion. Sony seems to have placed too much emphasis on retrofitting existing games with Move controls rather than focusing on games that are designed from day 1 with Move in mind. It has them, just not enough, and certainly not anything near the equivalent of "Dance Central", which is Kinect's killer app--it undeniably draws in crowds of non-gamers. Move also was probably not enough of a shift from Wii Motion Plus (making it seem a "boring" upgrade), whereas Kinect - love it or hate it - represents a fresh experience, which can't be overlooked either. Time will tell how either will ultimately fare, and certainly both Sony and Microsoft are fully committed at this point to making their respective solutions be long-term initiatives no matter what (meaning they'll ram it down everyone's throats until they're a success).

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Matt Barton
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Sony really seems on the way

Sony really seems on the way out--at least that's my prediction. I bet the next generation will produce their "Dreamcast," and that'll be the end of Sony as serious competition for Microsoft and Nintendo in the console market.

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Bill Loguidice
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No one is on their way out...
Matt Barton wrote:

Sony really seems on the way out--at least that's my prediction. I bet the next generation will produce their "Dreamcast," and that'll be the end of Sony as serious competition for Microsoft and Nintendo in the console market.

Exactly, just like what happened with Nintendo and the GameCube. Oh wait... One generation of minor missteps does not a disaster make. Based on Japan's indifference to the Xbox 360 alone, the PS3 may end up as the number 2 console of this generation worldwide. The PSP is seen as a comparitive failure, but Sony has moved well over 60 million units worldwide to date. I think a lot of companies would like to be in Sony's "bad" position. In any case, it would take at least two - not one - generation of missteps and failures to sink any of the big three. They're just too big, too ingrained, etc. This is not the era of the upstart company in shaky financial shape of the 70's and 80's. Sega failed because of a massive debt load long before the release of the Dreamcast. Only a miracle could have saved Sega. None of the big three are in that position. Not even close.

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clok1966
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should be fun
Matt Barton wrote:

Sony really seems on the way out--at least that's my prediction. I bet the next generation will produce their "Dreamcast," and that'll be the end of Sony as serious competition for Microsoft and Nintendo in the console market.

Hmmm worldwide the 360 and PS3 are both "out" if you compare sales numbers to date with the Wii. But if you compare the last year.. the Wii is dying and both the PS3 and 360 are gaining. And the PS3 is hardly a flop its made out in the US. its rouhgly 15% behind in sales to the 360 worldwide, and about 24% of the 360 sales came in the first year (so the PS3 has actually sold better in the time its been out than the 360) and keep in mind MS counts sold units (as does Sony) so there are ALOT of RROD units not out there in use. Of course all those number are from the internet where WIKI is taken as gospel and may be skewed whieveer way depending on who posted them. The 360 has a MUCH MUCH better attach rate, basicly its almost 2 to 1 compared to the PS3. That is pretty telling as the Consoles actually dont make any money, its the games. So in that respect, I guess you are correct. I think Sony basicly out engineered itslef this gen. the PS3 is really a pretty spectacular machine and has more Horsepower, and even better graphics ablity. Its just hard to harness any of that. Unused power is worthless power. As for the graphics, the 360 has the much more standard "extra" ram system which is simple to use, program and show off, hence almost all 360 games look better in some way as its much eaiser to do. Programers ahve been doing it for 10 years on the PC.

So in the end, you may be 100% right, but as time has shown us over and over, Better tech never means sales. MS bought this generation, and continue to do so. Ophra (a show that can take a book that sold nothing and make it the New York Times best seller just by a mention) is considered to be one of the BIG reasons Kinect got a great launch.. And it doesnt hurt they used Nintendos marketing "we wont have enough" can drive a very easy to impresse public to purchase.

the next gen is going to be VERY VERY different. Gadgets (wi motes, move, Kinect) wont sell systems, the Wii and its current downfall have shown that. Kinects going to be the last gasp (IMHO) unless some reall killer games come out, its just going to be another addon nobody uses in a year. Move... ehh its just Wiimote enhanced.. I gotta admit its by far the most precise controler of the 3.. I still think Kinect has noticable lag, Wimote is just a littel too fidgety... But the games for it suck.
Exclusives- Non factor the next round. With sales what they are nowdays, nobody want to jump on that wagon anymore. All the big names have already said (and yes it can alwasy change, money talks) they wont be doing anything EXCLUSIVE except DLC... Rockstar, Bungie, etc.. no more single system games. yes there will still be in studio games.. But MS has messed that advantage up, Bungie is gone (but than again HALO was there reall ONLY hit), GTA wont be just there, and most the other studios all the talent has left, but they still own the name. Nintendo is still king of this, they have the best in house games, problem is, that is about all they have. SONY is hurting bad, htey havent gotton any real "hits" out of any of the SONY only studio stuff unless you count DEMONS SOULS (which is going mulit platform for next version) which was a modest hit. There big name games are all good... but that it.. good dont cut it anymore with the compation. Killzone, Resistance, ... err... several others that all sold poorly.

The next gen is going to be interesting.. Nintendo may be in the best postion. When the Wii came out they had already said they where working on something else, so they "should" be way ahead of the other 2. Sony, hopefully has learned a leason with the "to hard to program" power nobody can use is as good as not there at all. MS... they are setting pretty, but will have some hard times without exclusives.. Other than HALO they have nothing really, Nintendo and SONY have huge back catalogs to fall back on in dire times). MS big advantage is LIVE, but you gotta know Nintendo isnt stupid and will bring it on the next consoles. Sony has grasped this and is working on improving it. Achievments "may" just be MS hole in one.. people are playing games they dont like to get those.. and to swap to another system and lose all that "hard work" .. people are attached to silly things, ask any WoW player to start over. It does appear MS has the advantage right now.. but one could hav said that for SONY 5 years ago.

I keep looking at MS track record, the 360 was the FIRST and only succesfull hardware launch MS has had... The gameing hardware stuff all lost money. If you count the original Xbox with the 360... the gaming devision still hasnt made money... but they dont (it was wrote off at end of life cycle of original xbox) the 360 took 4 years to turn a profit, the PS3 took the same. 1 succes in 10 is not a good track record for hardware. Heck if it wasnt for total market saturation they have failed pretty hard at OS's too.. 98, BOB, VISTA, one of every 3 has been considered bad. Can they do a hat trick, 2 in a row? the marketing wis behind the 360 is gone. I have to agree they would have to mess things up bad, but ... as I say, the asme could have been said about Sony (or even nintendo) a console generation or 2 ago.

Suposedly in 2 years we will know (MS says) 3 years for SONY, Nintendo hasnt said much at all (smartest move IMHO). I cant see SONY letting MS out the gate first, it hurt them alot last round.
It will come down to :
Sony learning from mistakes
MS keeping he ball rolling
Nintendo topping the success of motion control over gameplay.

Keep in mind the DREAMCAST was really ahead of its time. The PS3 is sony's Dreamcast (I think) awsome hardware, but nothing to show it off.

I cant wait.... A failure by SONY with the next hardware round could very well be the end of SONY as a major player in electronics period. the entertainment dept of SONY is over %60 of the company nowdays.

Bill Loguidice
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Kinect Sales to Reach 6 million+ worldwide by end of the year?

http://gamrfeed.vgchartz.com/story/83079/kinect-sales-reach-4-million-un...

I honestly never saw this coming. I was very lukewarm on both Move and Kinect prior to their launches. I can understand why reaction to Move was middling at best--it really is just a more sophisticated version to what we had with Wii Motion Plus and I think it was a poor strategy by Sony to retrofit games like Heavy Rain with Move support. I think it's fair to say that Kinect's potential success always hinged on whether the technology actually worked (it does to a sufficient degree) and whether people would be bothered by the relatively high price point (they're obviously not). I suppose there was some precedent for the latter in retrospect, with the relatively high cost of things like Wii Fit/Balance Board and the Band bundles not stopping those from selling briskly. It's also important not to underestimate that for whatever reason (concept, advertising, word of mouth, etc.) Kinect has strong appeal to non-gamers (much like the Wii), which is both clear anecdotaly and as shown via the system sales. Move seems to have fallen flat in that regard, which I think is reflected in the sales disparity. Move seems to be pretty much selling to the existing PS3 base.

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Matt Barton
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Sex Game Coming to

Sex Game Coming to Kinect

Better than pr0n???

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clok1966
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The big number I found

The big number I found suprising, is the 40% are new units with the 360 (bundles). That to me means the Wii generation are moving to the "next" thing. I was wrong about Wii (well, i think time will prove me right) and sure seem to be wrong about Kinect too.. but I have to stand by my "just a fad' thing.... While there are some fun games, just like BAND games, you can just do so much. All these new controlers have way more options than dedicated stuff like the drum kits, but ... As we see so many times, devolopers dont make NEW things, they just rehash the old, and most of the "hot" games just dont translate to the motion controlers. That is why I cant see them being more than fads. FPS... they dont work on these controlers well (though Medal of Honor On the WII was one of my favorite games on it). As Bill has pointed out the Dance game works well, but the rest? They all work to be sure, but do they work to a point where people will want more of them?

The P0RN game.. I remeber way back in the early MAC days there was one that was hyped alot about using a hand (and ..errr other things) pointer on a girl. I kept hear it was so (hmm not sure what word to use) must have.. and when i saw it, I was underwhelmed to say the least. A thought, kinect PORN may just be the crossover game to get japan to like the 360!!!!! The wierd stuff that sells over there boggles my mind. And before anybosy says anything , Japan is not alone in this wierd stuff, they just dont mind letting the rest of the world know they like it by putting it in public places (and video games).. everybody else hides it alot more.
I know the butt poking video game and the fact that they have vending machines that sell "used" panites....let alone the video that comes out of that country...

Bill Loguidice
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Kinect hacked to work on PC

Well, having porn on the 360 via Kinect would certainly help 360 sales in Japan, but Microsoft would never allow it. We have to keep in mind that this is all attempting to happen on the PC, where Microsoft is not in control of the platform.

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