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Microsoft Kinect review - Time to Kinect

Ketaki Bhojnagarwala | Updated on August 03, 2011 Published on January 26, 2011

Xbox and Kinect   -  BUSINESS LINE

Microsoft Kinect   -  BUSINESS LINE

Hardcore gamers have always been branded as couch potatoes. Nintendo changed that perception when it launched the Wii, which kick-started motion control gaming. This year Sony’s Playstation followed suit with the introduction of the Sony Move.

So when Microsoft announced that it’s highly anticipated motion control gaming sensor, Project Natal, was finally going to hit the shelves as the Kinect for Xbox, people wondered how it would be different from the other consoles in the market.

The answer was controller-less gaming. There is nothing to strap on to your wrist! The Kinect makes you, the gamer and the controller. You interact directly with the Kinect interface, and gaming makes a shift from a Graphic User Interface to a Natural User Interface.

With a bunch of games already in the market, and a lot more on the way, we literally jumped in to our TV screens to find out what the Kinect had to offer.Inside and out

The Kinect is surprisingly compact for its capabilities. It is encased in a rectangular, black, shiny plastic body. The camera and sensor console rests on a motorised stand, which automatically adjusts its tilt for calibration. On the front surface there is a RGB camera, with a VGA resolution of 640×480. The other two cameras are depth sensors, which are in fact infrared projectors, allowing the Kinect to capture 3D video under any ambient lighting conditions. There are also four microphones which pick up noise from anywhere in the room.

All new Xbox 360 Slim consoles have a Kinect port at the back, so you can just connect it to the sensor unit with the supplied cable. For older Xbox models, the Kinect ships with a USB connector cable and an AC adapter.

Starting up

Setting up the Kinect is as easy as plugging in the cable to your Xbox. Once that’s done the Kinect will take some time to configure its settings. Microsoft recommends that in order to play, you should stand at least 6 feet away from the sensor, if we came any closer it was impossible to play.

We had to practically rearrange the furniture in the room in order to play, and for people in cramped or smaller rooms, this can be quite hard to do. But in the interest of safety the space recommended is the best bet.

Once the Kinect detects you, the next step is voice calibration. This takes a while to do, but it’s worth it, considering that it allows the sensor to differentiate between voice commands and sounds coming from your TV.

Navigation

Navigation took a while getting used to, since we’re used to just flicking buttons on a controller. When you wave your hands in front of the sensor, it allows you to navigate between different menus. After a few minutes of awkward waving and waiting, we got the hang of it. In order to select a function, you simply have to hold your hand on top of a tile.

To get back to the Kinect Hub, even if you’re in the middle of the game, you have to stand straight with your left hand held at a 45 degree angle, which should bring up the screen in a few seconds. It’s pretty accurate, but it led us to inadvertently bring up the Kinect Hub even when we didn’t mean to.Another way of navigating is voice commands. You simply have to shout ‘Xbox’, and you’ll get a whole range of other voice commands that you can prompt the sensor with.

Gaming

Microsoft sent us four titles to try on the Kinect. Here are our impressions.

Dance Central

We had a lot of fun playing this one. You can choose from a couple of levels, ranging between easy and hard, and imitate the dance moves on the screen. The Kinect detects your entire body for this one, so you’ll have to perform the moves correctly, and this includes moving your hands, legs and upper torso. The menu also came with easy to use swipe features which were easy and intuitive to navigate.

Kinectimals

This one is sure to be a favourite with the kids. The hardest thing in the game was to choose which cub to adopt, but once that’s done its fun all the way. You gain points for grooming and playing with your cub. A pair of virtual hands will track your movements on the screen and let you literally ‘pet’ your cub, something that really won us over. What we didn’t like was the quality of the narration and the storyline which was kind of slow moving.

Joy Ride

This is a pretty standard racing game, where you have to literally steer with your hands. You don’t get much control over the way the car moves – it’s mostly just hit and miss. There are some fun features like power boost and stunts that you can perform, to help you gain an edge over competitors.

Kinect Sports

This comes with your usual package of gaming sports, such as Bowling, Boxing, Table Tennis, etc. Bowling was a lot of fun, and very addictive. With Table Tennis we didn’t have the same level of control that we got on the Playstation Move. It’s a pretty standard line-up of games, but we prefer Wii Sports.

Bottomline

The Kinect is futuristic, to say the least. Many might compare it to the Wii or the Move, but the fact remains that it is controller-less gaming. Most of the games the Kinect has launched with right now are family oriented, so right now we don’t feel that they would appeal to hardcore gamers. Having said that, the Kinect has immense potential, and with games like Star Wars in the making, the Kinect could possibly take gaming to a whole new level.

Kinect Sensor only: Rs 9,990

With Xbox 360 (4GB): Rs 22,990

(Both ship with a free copy of Kinect Adventures)

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Published on January 26, 2011
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