It has finally arrived, Microsoft’s Kinect. It seems this day would never come. It’s funny how the media has been so excited about the device, and by comparison, the Move, has launched to much less fanfare. I suppose the reason is one closely matches that of the Wii and therefore renders a similar experience, while the other removes any need for a controller. I was very positive about the Move within my Sports Champions review. That was then, this is now. Today we’re talking about Microsoft’s Kinect.
Many have emailed us asking how long it takes to set up the camera. Well, it’s a matter of seconds. You place the Kinect either below or above your TV; connect the USB cord into your slim 360 and away you go. If you own an older model, plug in the power adapter as well. Then there’s nothing else to do except synchronize the camera. But that’s where things become interesting.
Before you move furniture around or knock down walls, note that Microsoft recommends six feet to be between the camera and your playing area. I don’t really have that in my living room. I reside in a small apartment right now, so you can imagine. Before I forget, make sure there’s adequate lighting; otherwise the camera won’t follow you easily. Now you can move your coffee table out of the way.
I experienced no problem playing most of my games with my ottoman in place, but I had to remove it for Kinect Sports. That game requires around seven feet between the player and camera. It was the only one where I physically had trouble blocking Steven from scoring on me in soccer. Everything else worked perfectly.
Playing Kinect boils down to needing space. I won’t be able to play multiplayer Kinect games in my current living room. It’s not in the cards. You require at least eight feet to play multiplayer games, so there’s no hope for me given I barely have enough for solo gaming. Before you go crazy, synchronize the camera. It says if you’re blocking the view or not. I don’t think it’s necessary to remove all your furniture, as some pundits would want you to believe.
With the Kinect set up and synced, I tried the voice recognition software, and I think there’s real potential there. I easily started a game, loaded Zune, and signed in to my profile. I even added facial recognition so the camera knows Jarrod is Rockman1974. That’s pretty cool, and works extremely well…so long as you’re in a well-lit room. Steven and I tried video chatting, and while it’s pretty smooth, there’s noticeable echoing with speech. It wasn’t always present, so perhaps our connection was responsible. Our multiplayer games were completely lag-free. One neat feature with the video chat is the auto zoom option. It forces the camera to follow you within its proximity view. Obviously there are limits, but it followed me as I moved here and there, and sat on my couch. Again, it’s clear I don’t have the optimal space because when I sat down all Steven could see was my lovely head.
That’s all she wrote for the hardware. I’m pleasantly surprised by how easy the system is to set up, and how well everything has worked thus far. It takes practice to learn the hand activation controls, but that will become second nature in time. Even if you live in a tight apartment, you can play and enjoy Kinect. Having a friend over for bowling might not be too bright though. I also admit to not being very excited about motion control, but from the little I’ve played, I acknowledge that it’s growing on me. It’s just so different than Move and Wii. Some of the games simply couldn’t be done on those platforms, while others would be ten times better. I’ll offer more detail in the coming days, but for now I strongly recommend everyone who owns a 360 to try this. I think many would be surprised by how much fun some of these games are, and how impressive this technology can be. I believe Microsoft may have a winner on their hands. Now give us the games, and don’t stop giving them to us, or else…