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Archive: Aug 20, 2010
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Review: Kinect connects to users
by: Aug 20, 2010 Print

Xbox 360 and Kinect

Imagine never having to search for a remote controller again, never mind trying to figure out which of the five on your coffee table is the one you need to flip the channels. Microsoft has been busy in its efforts to turn that scenario into a reality with Kinect, its motion-control technology for the Xbox 360 platform.

Kinect has been generating a fair bit of buzz, both good and skeptical, since it was first announced at last year's E3. At this week's Microsoft holiday preview X'10 in Toronto, I got the chance to have a first-hand experience with Kinect.

While looking to widen its target demo outside the traditional gamer, Microsoft is also touting Kinect as an overall entertainment experience. Kinect includes a webcam-esque sensor that hooks up to the Xbox 360 console, and detects movement.

To activate the motion sensor, I waved my hand in front of the camera, much like I'd wave at a friend, and I was in business. Kinect also detected whether I was navigating with my left or right hand and this was reflected in the mini-hand that appeared on screen.

A swiping motion in front of the screen will scroll through the options on the dashboard, and Kinect was surprisingly responsive at mirroring my movements, even reflecting the speed with which I moved my hand.

Once connected to its online network Xbox Live, you can access the ever-expanding Zune marketplace where more than a thousand movies and TV series are available for instant streaming, in both SD and HD.

And not only can you control normal TV-watching functions with hand gestures -- using the swiping motion to rewind or fast-forward -- Kinect also detects voice commands and will listen when the user calls out "Xbox, pause" or "Xbox, play." Unfortunately, the ambient noise interfered with the voice commands, but were eventually picked up when spoken loudly enough.

The demo was using a beta build and there's still work to be done before the product is released this November. But Kinect has a lot of potential in the entertainment space, especially as Microsoft continues to look for more TV and film content for Zune, representing an opportunity for indie prodcos and distributors.

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