I was unsure of what to make of the Kinect for the longest time. Admittedly, after first hearing about the name change, and feature reduction, I was skeptical of it. Was this really where Microsoft wanted to take the gaming generation? Was motion gaming really going to be the thing that the big three were striving for now?
The Initial Setup:
The first issue I had with Kinect was setting it up. No, plugging it into the 360 was not hard – but positioning it became an irritation very quickly. My LCD TV is less than an inch wide, which made setting the Kinect on top of it next to impossible (although I did end up trying it for a few seconds with duct tape). I tried placing it on my TV stand, but it was too low, and the 8-feet of space I had reserved ended up not being enough (even on Microsoft’s site, they say it’s best to keep the Kinect as close to the 6-foot mark as possible, as while the Kinect does move, it works better from higher up). I ended up having to build a shelf (it helps to be handy like that), and got it as close to the 6-foot mark they recommend as I could.
Problem the first, had been eliminated.
Next, the Kinect has to check the microphones inside of it, and requires a VERY quiet environment for this test. Now as my friends will attest, my house is rarely quiet. We have five dogs, a macaw, a Senegal parrot, and three kids (not to mention all their friends) inside the house. Quiet is an option I don’t normally have. By some miracle however, I was able to get everyone to shut up for the five-minute test of the mics.
Problem the second – annihilated.
The next problem I encountered happened when I was actually trying to play games. As mentioned in the last paragraph, we have dogs. Not all of our dogs are little either, with a husky, and a sheltie thrown into the mix. The Kinect doesn’t recognize them as dogs, but rather as people crawling on the ground. This quickly became a problem as the dogs wanted to play too (because jumping around looked fun). The only way to avoid this problem was to lock them up, something I don’t really like to do.
Problem the third – on the ropes.
One of the most touted features pre-launch was the video-chat option, which I tested on a few different occasions. The first issue with the video chat, is the fact that you need a physical controller to answer an incoming chat request. For a piece of hardware that wants to eliminate the controller, not being able to answer an incoming request with a simple voice command is an annoyance at best. The camera quality is remarkably low-res, and on a 50-inch LCD it makes the picture look pretty bad (and why the hell do I need to see myself on the screen….don’t I want to see the person I’m talking to more?)
A feature that works remarkably well however, is the use of voice commands in apps like Netflix, and last.fm. The microphones on the Kinect never had a problem detecting my voice, and also never had a problem understanding what I was saying. It was much more responsive than having to hold your hand over something for a few seconds.
Facial recognition was also something I couldn’t get to work, no matter how many lighting options I tried – overhead lights, lamps behind, and a combination of all didn’t seem to make a difference. I can’t really comment on it other than that for that reason.
While I don’t really want to get into specific game issues here, I have to say that it’s like the Wild West out there right now. Everyone is doing their own thing, and there really are no rules as to what does what. Holding your right arm down, and your left arm at a 45-degree angle enters a pause menu, but what that menu is varies from game to game. There’s almost no consistency at all – which is really irritating. Couple that with the fact that most of what has been put out for release could be classified as “shovelware”, and I really have a hard time telling people to buy Kinect right now.
Yes, I see GREAT potential here, and I can’t wait to see what can come out of it. I see problems that could easily be fixed with a firmware update or two. But I also see a myriad of garbage being thrown at the consumer right now, just to get some software out with the hardware. Maybe in 6 months to a year the Kinect will justify the cost, but for now it most certainly does not.
- Not as easy to set up as it should be
- No consistency from game to game
Kinect was released on November 4th, 2010