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

Catatonic
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Joined: 05/20/2006
Sony doesn't just profit from

Sony doesn't just profit from game sales, they use the PS3 to sell Sony TV's, Blu-ray discs (Sony gets a royalty on every disc. and they own a movie studio), home theater systems, etc. Sales of any one of those things help the others.

clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
Royalty off every Blue ray

Royalty off every Blue ray disc? I know alot of people think Sony is Blu ray, but they are just part of several companies that backed it.. the most vocal, but they are not the Owner of blu ray, just one of many owners (unless im really mistaken). I imagine they get some part of the pie (and a royalty as you say)as a part owner. And Im sure since they backed it and are invested heavly in it they want it to be a success. I do know where you are comming form, you piggy back alot on the other. I know not ot long ago the game devision was 60% or more of SONY, I wonder what it is nowdays.. more or less? I do knwo the electronics side is taking a beating, the PS3 while doing ok is simply the 3rd dog in a race thats almost over, its close to the 2nd dog but even if it passes it by races end, its still going to be 2nd and when it comes to betting on the next race (next generation on consoles) its problemy going to be a longshot.

Blu Ray.. I do wonder how long till the real money from it roles in. Movie sales are bad right now, and with digital, most likely going to be worse. Rental stores are feeling the crunch (and you gotta think they are the biggest buyers of movies), places like Netflix and even Blockbuster still have Walmart like clout and can force cheaper buys in bulk so not much money is made that way (a guess). I like blue ray.. a HiDef BIG tv and it SHINES! but I'm starting to think its a like making the best Horse drawn carrige, just as cars are taking off. I htink Bluray is awsome, but its like its the end of physical media.. even fantastic physical media is out of date compared to digital. The last of the Brick and morter rental places are slowly dying out, REDBOX is doing ok, but only as it takes no employees (i suggest stock buys!). So many things are going to happen in the next few years.. parts of our everyday lives are going to be gone forever. its so strange to me, I was just about 17-18 when RENTAL places took off. The RCA video Disc (not the hi def stuff of the 90's) was the first.. it came right before the betamax VHS wars.. I have one at home with about 50 discs.. I can remeber renting um all the time in collage.. then the stars all had beta and VHS.. for a time (like DVD and Blu-ray now)... but it wasnt long.. VHS took over and Beta was just on shelves for stubborn people.. Now it seems Im going to watch the demise of Rental places (as actual stores).. very strange and slighly sad.. I do associate video rentals with arcade games and such.. in fact in collage tow of the biggest rentals wher gas stations with arcades and video rental.. back than 100 movies was a big sellection :) the start of Direct to video.. movies shown in italy, etc got boxed and sold.. stuff they would never send to a Theater.. I think of all the cool odd movies I have seen.. how bad US action movie are compared to other countries.

wow im so far off track..

Nathaniel Tolbert
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Joined: 11/06/2010
By the way...

Sony does indeed make a profit off of every BD sold. As do every other company in the BDA (Blu-Ray Disc Association). There is a licensing fee per movie, and then a licensing fee per disc, well that's not true, there is a cost per disc for the 'Durabis' layer, even if the movie doesn't have this layer of protection. It's not a lot of money I think the fee per disc amounts to something around two tenths of a cent per disc, but the fee per movie can be exorbitant. Also the Blu-Ray Disc Association at any point at any time can remove a license to manufacture a movie on BD. Even if that movie is already shipping and selling. It's not the best idea for a movie media if you ask me. For once Steve Jobs was right when he said "Blu-Ray is a large bag of hurt." Look at it this way. Blu-Ray was released in mid June of 2006. It's been on the market for approximately 4 and half years. What is the average price per movie? $24.95 around here, some going as high as 44.95 for a SINGLE movie. (To point out those are BD-3D - blehh.) Box sets are even worse. By four years out of the gate with DVD's, there was already a price parity starting to form with VHS tapes. New movies were approximately 20 bucks or you could get them even cheaper on release, because they are on sale. The average sale on blu-ray here when the movie is released is 2 dollars, so 22.95 instead of 24.95. In the worst economy the world has seen since the 1930's. So why hasn't there been a parity on blu-ray versus DVD? Part of it is due to the fact that the manufacturing equipment is completely different from DVD's and costs close to 10 times as much for a BD line as a DVD line for manufacturing. Also look at the glass masters. Glass masters are used to create the original from which all of the copies are created for sale. A DVD glass master is now close to 2-5,000 dollars. A BD one last time I checked was 25,000 a layer, so if you are making a dual layer disc, that's 50,000 for the master. The average movie studio goes through 2 glass masters before they finalize the movie due to errors or changes to the disc layout. So, 100,000 down the drain right off the bat, higher association fees per movie, and a smaller market (approx. 45 million HD tv owners, versus approx 100 million SDtv owners.) means that discs have to stay proportionately higher for companies to make their return on investment.

Sorry for the off-topic post, I just thought people here would find some of this information interesting.

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Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Journalist freaked out by

Journalist freaked out by Kinect: http://www.maxconsole.net/content.php?43776&s=38fad60570074337c876d09112...

*gasp* It takes actual pictures of you that you then have the option of sharing with others.

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Rob Daviau
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Joined: 05/19/2006
sad
Bill Loguidice wrote:

Journalist freaked out by Kinect: http://www.maxconsole.net/content.php?43776&s=38fad60570074337c876d09112...

*gasp* It takes actual pictures of you that you then have the option of sharing with others.

Welcome to the computer age! Freaked out because it took pictures and gives her an option to share them....OK.
Clearly some people do not have any business writing articles about all this new-fangled technology. God forbid they
discover facebook anytime soon. I never understood all this type of worry and rant over privacy or security etc, it is so damn
simple, if you do not want others access to your info then keep your info OFF LINE. Anyway I guess I am getting off track.....
silly journalist.

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Bill Loguidice
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To be fair to the journalist,

To be fair to the journalist, it appears to have been done tongue-in-cheek, but it's a rather weak angle to take... And speaking of angles, I don't care for the implication that Kinect takes upskirt photos based on the so-called action shot in the article. Wouldn't it have been better to show one of the goofy photos the Kinect actually took?

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
so it inst so
Bill Loguidice wrote:

To be fair to the journalist, it appears to have been done tongue-in-cheek, but it's a rather weak angle to take... And speaking of angles, I don't care for the implication that Kinect takes upskirt photos based on the so-called action shot in the article. Wouldn't it have been better to show one of the goofy photos the Kinect actually took?

a journalist using a bad/titilating/harmfull angle to generate interest, say it isnt so! :) Actually cant blame them, its the public that gravitates to it. If we didnt enjoy the problems of others we wouldnt read/view them i guess.

Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Check out this non-gamer kick

Check out this non-gamer kick ass on Dance Central, Kinect's killer app: http://www.youtube.com/user/MightyMeCreative .

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Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Kinect in 2011:
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Bill Loguidice
Bill Loguidice's picture
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Kinect support for Windows in the works, SDK release this summer

(Official) Kinect support for Windows in the works, SDK release this summer?: http://www.engadget.com/2011/01/19/kinect-support-for-windows-in-the-wor...

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