Microsoft XBOX Kinect Human Body Game and TV Controller (Review)

I’m a big fan of the futuristic science movie Minority Report which has a famous scene where a character manipulates photos and information on a screen by swooshing their hands around.

xbox kinect skeleton sensingKinect Skeleton Sensing. photo credit: Neerav Bhatt

So I was quite keen to attend the Australian media launch of Microsoft’s XBOX Kinect, a new camera system that uses infrared sensors to allow people to play games and issue commands to play movies, tv, music etc on their XBOX via body movements and voice commands instead of holding a games controller in their hands.

For a contrarian view on Kinect I recommend reading the very funny Charlie Brooker’s Guardian column Why talk to a computer? Surely talking to a human is traumatic enough?.

XBOX Kinect Australian launch and TechEdAU Photos

If you don’t own an XBOX already you can opt to buy a 4GB Xbox 360 slim console, the Kinect, a copy of Kinect Adventures game, one controller and basic cables for $449. If you already own an XBOX (even if its several years old) you can get a Kinect for $199 and just plug it in.

In terms of bonus features: Kinect has Video conferencing built in which is a handy extra easy to use feature for XBOX owners and FOXTEL Internet Pay TV on the XBOX 360 will offer lots of channels including Fox Sports, Discovery, Disney, Nickolodean, Video on Demand etc without needing a cable TV box (minimum 1.5mbit broadband internet required).

XBOX Kinect Explained by IGN

Joy Ride – Example Body Controlled Kinect Game

After the Microsoft managers announced Kinect was being launched in Australia on Thursday 18th November there were several gaming areas setup so that the media could try Kinect out by playing some of the 15 games initial games which will be launched for the platform.

As an example I’m playing the new XBOX Joy Ride racing game below by holding my hands as if they were on a steering wheel and using my body to lean to the right to steer around a right corner. The video shows my journalist friend Leigh Stark driving the game for a lap.

xbox kinect playing joy rideNeerav Bhatt Playing Joy Ride racing using Kinect. photo credit: Trevor Long

Kinect – Initial Verdict

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Kinect says it will let you control games using your body and this worked to a large extent. However it felt really strange to be playing games which required physical exertion like bowling with visual feedback but no physical feedback to your hands. The promised voice and hand signal command driven music/tv/video features weren’t available for testing.

For example I like 10 Pin Bowling so I tried that option in the Kinect Sports game. While there were interesting tricks like glowing arrows on the bowling alley to show where the ball was going to go and the ball trajectory on screen impressively spun in the direction my wrist moved, it felt very strange not to have the weight of a physical bowling ball in my hand.

Similarly I like driving games so tried out the Joy Ride game but not having a wheel or games controller to make subtle movements meant I had to lean my whole body to the left or right to turn, the car accelerated by itself by default and there wasn’t a reverse gear.

So the technology works but I agree with WIRED that there should be more Kinect games which work with minimal, subtle body movements. Also it would probably be more effective with a combination of a controller, body movements and voice, i’m told this functionality will be enabled in the future.

Overall playing Kinect made me tired faster than I expected, even though im pretty fit walking over 50-60km a month. A lot of gamers prefer to sit on a couch or beanbag while playing so i’m not sure if the Kinect will appeal to them. However it may appeal to non-traditional gamers like people who found the Nintendo Wii fun.

12 thoughts on “Microsoft XBOX Kinect Human Body Game and TV Controller (Review)”

  1. You call walking 50/60kilo a month doesn’t really qualify as fit. 2 kilometres a day. Maybe kinect can be used as a tool to assess fitness

    EDITOR: I just had a fitness test and the Doc said walking so much was the main factor for me being so healthy. Also yes Kinect does have lots of options for sports/exercise/fitness games

  2. It seems all the consoles are now taking ideas from Nintendo. I heard a rumor Nintendo is working on something else that is pretty big or the “next coming thing”. Wonder what that will be and how long will it be before all the others jump on the band wagon.

  3. Wicked idea it’s about time xbox started to push themselves.Hopefully it will be done as well
    as the Wii but targeted more towards adults and children,not just children like the Wii.

  4. Looks Great , id love to play it Kinect. But what happens when your playing and you have to scratch your nose or scratch your head. I dont think playing this way you can multitask yourself could ruin the experiance doing so? Might have to pause the game. Alot of professioanl gamers love to play games but to be able to multitask as well.

  5. I am looking forward to getting Kinect, and I think the price is pretty good. I believe it is $150, which isn’t bad for the features that it gives.

  6. I just bought Kinect and me and my children have so much fun. Best game for my little girl is Kinectimals but my son loves Kinect Joy Ride

  7. I went out and bought Kinect yesterday and I must say this IS the future 🙂 Way more fun than the Wii mote and PS Move (which is just a black Wii mote). Plus with kinect you actually have to get up off your butt and move around unlike the Wii mote where you can just flick you wrist lol.

  8. I think getting people off the couch with those “minimal movements” is a great move to fighting obesity in the younger generation I mean I love first person shoot em ups but the kinect takes things to a new level of involvement. If you want minimal movement play the wii or playstations Move any form of controller free gaming will feel weird !!! But that comes hand in hand with CONTROLLER FREE gaming lol.

  9. Kinect has been a great development in video gaming and an convenient way to keep fit for those who dont really have the time (or money) for the gym. There are a good few dance/fitness titles now available. My personal favourites are EA Sports Active and Zumba Fitness 🙂

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