GameGuideDog puts Kinect to the test: Controller-free impressions of Microsoft’s latest Hardware
Microsoft first announced its motion-based interface two years ago, and the gaming company pitched a… wait did I say ‘gaming company’? Oh yah, right I went from OS development to hardware… and then ‘games… (but these are the guys that made a MS Keyboard where the letters actually rubbed off!!! Sure it was ergonomic and all, but the letters rubbing off? You’d think they’d…. oh nevermind… So they now have the grandiose vision of a controller-free future in gaming…. um, Nintendo still beat everyone to the gate in their enitre console, but ahem….
Now back to Kinect… along with a launch game lineup aimed largely toward the casual crowd (read: Wii owners), the team showcased innovative features such as scanning real life objects, interacting with a virtual boy named Milo, and the ability to play previously-released titles without a controller. While some of these ideas have been put on hold, Kinect still offers a number of solid features out of the box.
So what does this all mean? Well all the console systems have spawned off a new means of navigation, but using our bodies of course. Maybe gaming will become something more athletic and less couch potatoie (is that a word?) I like to call myself a ‘mouse’ potato.
Anyways, setting up a Kinect unit was incredibly easy – just connect the power supply’s USB cable into your 360, then plug the Kinect’s USB connector into a port branching from the power supply cable and you’re set. After a quick update prompted by hardware detection when you power up your 360, you’ll notice a few changes to the dashboard. Aside from the new Xbox Live update that features a sleeker interface, you’ll see a small square on the bottom right corner of the screen featuring a grayscale silhouette that accurately follows your movements. Contrary to some premature reports, you’re free to sit during controller-free menu navigation.
Kinect offers a separate dashboard for Kinectcompatible features, displayed in a series of panels. You can navigate these panels using your hands or via voice commands, both of which feel responsive. A quick hand wave causes Kinect to recognize your movement, revealing a hand cursor on screen that you can use to move among panels. Hovering over a panel causes a quick circular gauge to fill confirming your selection. Once you’re within Kinectspecific menus such as the Avatar Editor, you can hover over selections and slide your hand left or right to confirm your choices.
Voice commands are equally easy to use. Prior to any voice command you have to say “Xbox” and then follow the simple on-screen prompts. For instance, from the main dashboard you can say “Xbox” then “Kinect” to enter the Kinect-specific menu. From here, anything that you see on screen you can say and the mic will recognize your selections. If you want to check out your current achievements, simply say “Xbox” then “achievements” to enter the menu. Voice commands only work on the surface level of the Kinect menu, so once you’re in the Avatar Editor or achievements menus you’re limited to hand commands. The Kinect picked up my voice commands even at a mere whisper, so there’s no need to yell. If your Xbox 360 is set up in a language other than English, Kinect unfortunately defaults to hand gestures. Hopefully support for voice commands in other languages will be implemented in a future patch.