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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 12, 2010 @ 11:37 am

    Tech tools: Kinect for Xbox

    Ciara O'Brien

    Last night I found myself trying to teach a virtual pet how to sit, play dead and roll over. If you haven’t seen any of the ads for Kinect yet, this involves rolling on the floor in front of a camera that is the latest controller for the Xbox.

    Dignified it is not.

    Kinect is the latest in video games technology, a motion sensing device that turns your body into the controller. The Xbox sensor uses cameras and microphones to track your body movements and translate that into commands for the game.

    This game in particular – Kinectimals – is aimed at the younger age group. But with Kinect, Microsoft is targetting an area where the Wii has had some great success, namely casual gamers.  The launch games include Kinect Sports (its version of Wii Sports), Kinect Adventures, Kinect Joyride, Dance Central and the aforementioned Kinectimals.

    The problem that mayhit some gamers is that you need a bit of room – about six feet between you and the sensor, plus plenty of space to allow you jump around, to the side, etc. Tip: check above you too. I’m not the tallest in the world, but it can result in some pretty painful bumps if you misjudge the height.

    And the more light there is, the better. The cameras won’t work too well in dim light. You also need to be careful where you place it: not too close to noisy fans or speakers, which could interfere with the microphone on Kinect.

    If you’re using it with the older Xbox 360 console, you’ll need an AC charger to power it; the Slim console has enough USB power to eliminate the need for external sources.

    Although it’s a little more expensive than your average controller – €149.99 -  one controller covers two players.

    But is it any good? In short, yes. It’s fun, it’s easy to pick up and it’s definitely different. Eliminating controllers means some games are automatically more fun – as a fanb of Just Dance, I’m leaning a little more towards Dance Central these days.

    It’s not going to be suited to every game, but it does a good job of the ones it’s attempted. EA Sports Active 2 and Ubisoft’s Your Shape are just two of the fitness titles that are Kinect enabled; given the success of the Wii Fit, this should be one area that the Kinect can really shine in.

    Dance Central has probably got the most game time since Monday, but Kinect Sports is pretty good too, although my football skills leave a lot to be desired.

    It’s not perfect. There is a slight lag between your movement and the controller translating it into movement on screen, but it’s very slight, how noticeable it is varies depending on the game and realistically, it’s nothing that I didn’t expect.

    It’s worth bearing in mind too that this is just the beginning of this particular chapter in gaming. What started with the Wii has been very quickly adapted and developed further in a relatively short period of time. And Kinect drivers have already been hacked as part of a competition that offer $3k for the first person to successfully do it. Adafruit says obtaining the drivers will allow it to be used for “robotics, art, science, education and more”.

    With Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all competing for the same game audience again, things are about to get very interesting for gamers.

    • paul m says:

      pretty much ostracised the japanese market right there. or for that matter anyone living in a city centre apartment. who has 8 – 10ft of space in front of the tellybox these days?

    • I had similar concerns myself – I live in an apartment and didn’t think I’d have enough space either. Bar one minor toe stubbing incident with the sofa though, so far so good. I should mention though that I’ve been doing single player games up until now. I can forsee some issues this weekend when we try multiplayer.

    • lisadom says:

      This has great implications for Autism already Ciara. Lots of folks find the hand eye thing difficult with the wii – getting good reports via facebook moms. xx

    • paul m says:

      the hacks for it so far look interesting, especially for the development of immersive player games. HALO 3D anyone with yourself as the central character?