I have been watching , following, and waiting for Kinect since it was unveiled at E3 2009 as “project natal” I have been some sort of strange evangelist for this technology. I have been telling everyone I know , showing them youtube videos, and really thinking about all the possibilities of this new tech.
I am not usually an early adopter of new technology. The last time I got in on the ground floor of a console it was the Wii which did not really work out for me, but I thought I would try it again for Kinect, and I picked it up last week the day it launched.
I know all the reviews on Kinect are out, I thought I would give it at least a week before I threw my opinion out there, so lets break it down.
The hardware- The hardware is simple , its just a camera. If you have the Xbox slim all you need to do is plug in the usb. Kinect comes bundled with a power adapter for those who still us the original xbox models.
The dashboard- For me the moment when I first got to experience Kinect I was speechless and a bit giddy. I stuck my hand out to navigate the dashboard and it worked. No experience in games up to this point felt more like the future than when I stuck my hand out and I could control the dashboard, but that is as far in the future as I got.
The UI experience was one of the things most skeptics were looking forward to.It out of all the things shown was one of the most promising. The Kinect dashboard or Kinect hub feels clunky at times and slow. You have to hover your hand over an icon for about three seconds to activate it. Now to most three seconds is not a long time, but feels like an eternity when you are used to hitting the A button. The dashboard for Kinect feels limited, I guess the year plus of watching videos of people demonstrating Kinect using the usual xbox dashboard while flipping their hands through the dashboard panels really got my hopes up. I just wish I could control the entire 360 dashboard with Kinect motion or voice controls. So this means no Netflix navigation and no Netflix voice control which is a big draw back, and Microsoft has released no word if they are going to integrate the Kinect function into the rest of the dashboard.
Room IS an issue- Kinect requires 7 to 10 ft of play space….no joke. If you do not have it, do not bother. This is not a recommendation or a suggestion…it really is a requirement. I live in an oddly spaced apartment, and I spent all night before launch rearranging my living room for Kinect , and I barely make it with moving my coffee table and pushing my furniture to the side just a bit. Hopefully Microsoft remedies this in the future….a not so distant future.
Kinect Voice- Voice on Kinect is a truly impressive function. Simply say xbox and then give it a voice command and Kinect usually listens. The problem again is the voice function only works in the Kinect dashboard, which makes it limited just like the motion UI functions.I just don’t feel like the voice functionality is very user convenient. For example You would think saying “Xbox on! or OFF!” would work…nope. Or “Xbox tray open or close” would work….well sometimes. Voice works amazingly when using chat on Xbox live and watching movies. Saying pause, play, forward,or rewind during a movie works well, and truly feels futuristic,Too bad it only works with Zune videos. Once again no Netflix, and not even when you play a DVD, you would think at least one of these would be wedged in.
The Games- Kinect comes bundled with Kinect adventures, In my opinion a way better pack in game than Wii sports. Kinect adventures is a mini game collection that was really designed to show you what Kinect can do, and for that its really impressive. When you jump the character jumps, when you reach out so does your character, it feels far more responsive than what I thought it was going to.After a few games I really felt like I was being…well active. There is some lag, but nothing a player can not adjust to . Adventures makes a good party game, or a good game to show of Kinect to your friends but will not really offer anything single player longterm. Unlike Wii sports you won’t be spending a lot of time with Kinect Adventures.
I bought Dance Central and Your Shape for Kinect, and both offer some impressive things, and you will see some things in these you have never seen in video games before, but I will not go into those now.
Overall Kinect is an impressive piece of technology where it stands right now. It just has little to offer over the long term as it is right now. For me the investment in Kinect is hopefully an investment in the future. The possibilities for Kinect really could be the game changer for the industry. If Microsoft can really get all the features of XBOX Kinect enabled, I would expect more acceptance for the tech. As for games, the launch was ….well…really bad. Most of the games were Wii motion games, which are usually bad, with most developers not really thinking out of the box, with the exception of Adventures, Your shape, and Dance Central. It will be really interesting to see more core games on Kinect, or at least something that might occupy more of my time with using the tech. We will have to wait and see what the future holds for the “future” of gaming.