I may be skeptical when it comes to motion controlled gaming but there’s a good reason for that. Actually there are two good reasons for that – 1) Lack of precision and 2) Crappy Software. These two concerns of mine may iron themselves out eventually but there’s no doubt that pretty much every new piece of hardware that attempts to so called “revolutionize” gaming falls prey to these shortcomings. After Nintendo and Sony, it’s now Microsoft’s turn to dabble in the motion controlled arena where they promise to turn you into a controller. It’s an interesting concept that can appeal to newcomers and casual gamers, but does that mean you should rush out and buy it right now? Hell no!
But before we delve into specifics telling you why Kinect’s not the most feasible piece of tech on the planet, let’s take a quick look at the hardware that allows you to become the controller. If you own one of the new slim Xbox360 consoles, the Kinect can simply be connected via the USB port. For older models, the Kinect sensor requires an extra amount of power that can be organized by connecting it to a three pin plug socket, in addition to your 360’s USB slot. The sensor itself looks pretty sweet and comes in just one color – Black. The finish is glossy so yes, dust and fingerprints will be pretty evident.
It really isn't a joyride
There’s no doubt that the tech fuelling Kinect is impressive. Using an infrared emitter and a CMOS sensor, Kinect is able to detect your body, render it and track it in 3D Space. Its motorized tilt facilitates both horizontal and vertical movement so you can jump around all you want and the sensor will still track you without any issue. Thanks to the infrared camera, Kinect’s able to detect you just fine even if you’re playing with minimal or no lighting. There’s also an RGB camera mounted in the front that enables face recognition, video chat and other random superficial stuff. And finally you have the mic that picks up voice commands for dashboard commands and voice chat.
While all this sounds fine and dandy, I decided to test Kinect out in the real world AKA my humble abode and here’s where things fell apart real fast. The mic for starters is super sensitive and since I stay on the ground floor it continuously picked up ambient sound from outside. Thanks to this, audio calibration failed every single time. I switched off the AC, the fan and tried staying completely silent but no dice. It’s like Microsoft hasn’t taken into account that most people live in urban areas that are not very quiet. Only when I closed my window and the door to my room was I able to calibrate the entire process. And guess what, after going through all of that I got an error saying my region does not support voice recognition. Great!
Now Microsoft has constantly reminded us that Kinect requires a lot of space but it was only once I tried setting it up at home did that really sink in. I may not live in a palace but my room is fairly large (250 sq feet roughly) and even then I found myself struggling with space. For an ideal Kinect experience, Microsoft expects you to maintain a distance of around 6-8 feet between you and the sensor. Now keep in mind that I’m 6 foot 4 inches tall, so even though I put in around 7 feet between me and the sensor, it wasn’t enough. The top of my head was continuously getting cut off and I had issues navigating some of the menus. It is also recommended that the Kinect sensor be placed on a surface that is around 2 – 4 feet off the ground. Once again this measurement didn’t work quite well for me and I had to elevate the sensor to nearly five feet for it to work properly. To do so I had to place the sensor on top of my television, balancing it precariously in the process.
Bowl your heart out without leaving home
Besides the 8 feet of uninterrupted space (no coffee tables allowed) you need to have between you and the sensor, you’re also required to have around 5 feet of space on both sides. And that’s just the bare minimum for one person. Since I obviously didn’t have that sort of space at my disposal, adding in another individual be it a full-fledged adult or a child was completely out of the question.
While space and sound were an issue at home, things went a lot smoother in our labs at work. Thanks to the room’s sound proofing I was able to finish the audio calibration in no time. Space wasn’t an issue either and two people could very comfortably stand and play a game at the same time. I also noticed that Kinect worked a lot better in darker rooms, which once again wasn’t an issue in our labs where I could adjust the lighting to my liking. But then again, not everyone may have access to ideal conditions like that so think about it long and hard before you fork out Rs. 10,000 on tech you may not be able to use comfortably at home.
On the software front there’s nothing extra to be installed over here as Microsoft already added in Kinect support with their last dashboard update. There’s a separate Kinect hub in the dashboard itself which of course you can navigate controller free. Thankfully Kinect allows you to become the controller while seated as well and for me, it worked better than standing up. This once again was probably due to the lack of space in my room. Navigating the menu was a fairly smooth affair and I was browsing through my Achievements, decking out my Avatar and tweaking my settings with great ease. Unfortunately that’s about all you can do as of now in the Kinect hub, especially if you don’t have a US gamertag. It’s a fairly bare-boned menu which I’m guessing will incorporate more features with time.
Lunch is served
Setting up a Kinect ID on the other hand is a painful procedure. The calibration process is fairly lengthy where you’re supposed to move around, stop, pose and move around some more at different times of day. Yes I understand this is Kinect trying to map my room and figure out how much space I have to play around with, but it just felt annoying and I skipped the process completely. On the plus side, I never had to calibrate myself prior to playing every game like with the Move. Oh and most ironic part of the calibration process is that you need a regular controller to complete it successfully. LOL!
"But what about the games Nash?" Well yes, now we come to the part I personally think sucks the most. It’s very obvious Microsoft has been targeting Kinect at the casual crowd and its launch line-up is a testament to that fact. Now keep in mind we never received any review copies from Microsoft and I‘m sure as hell not shelling out Rs. 2,500 on utter crap so all I had to go on were a few borrowed games. These included rhythm-based dancing game Dance Central, a collection of mini-games called Kinect Adventures and a racing gaming called Joyride. While I did get my groove on with Dance Central, Kinect Adventures and Joyride were boring and generic as hell. And of course, as with all motion-controlled gaming, even half an hour of playtime will tire you out. Playing through just three songs on Easy in Dance Central was enough to leave me a breathless, sweaty mess.
Do you have such a big room?
While I’m obviously very disappointed with the launch lineup, there’s no doubt that Kinect is an interesting piece of technology that should evolve just fine with time. Many of you may get a kick out of controller free gaming for a few days, but it’s only a matter of time before the sensor lies in a corner gathering dust and you’ll go back to your beloved controller. This obviously boils down to the lack of engaging software and without games to play with, I highly doubt you’ll want to shell out 10k just so you can scroll through your Achievements, Minority Report style. There are also logistic issues pertaining to space that you cannot ignore so unless you live in a spacious house, or at least have a ton of space in your room, Kinect is pretty much out of the question for you.
Published Date: Dec 21, 2010 12:00 pm | Updated Date: Dec 21, 2010 12:00 pm