Hands on with the Kinect

So, if you haven’t heard, there’s 13 Macy’s stores around the nation that have Kinect demo stations available to try. I happen to live in Nerdtopia, so of course the local Macy’s was Kinect-enabled. So today I put on my best Harry Potter shirt, my mommiest jeans, and went to bore my child while I waggled in public.

I am not biased against waggle. I own a Wii and after E3 I was pretty Kinect-positive.

I had a short wait since the demonstrator was on break and they have to keep the Kinect on their person at all times. He returned to a small crowd and people oohed and aahed over the Xbox slim while he was getting things set up. Then he asked who wanted to volunteer. No one jumped up. Everyone still suspects that waggle makes you look like an asshole. No matter, I’ve been looking like an asshole for years and it’s never hurt me, so I got in.

I played River Rapids. As everyone noticed in the demonstrations during E3, there is lag. It was easy to adjust to, but it actively kept me out of the game because I was constantly thinking “Ok, if I want my dude to jump there I need to move now,” every time I needed to do something. Aside from that, the game wasn’t half bad. It did a good job of recognizing when I was leaning, taking a small step, or taking a big step and adjusting the course of the boat to match my degree of motion.

It took three pictures of me, one of my frowny “I need to jump now if I want my guy to jump at the right time” face and two of my crotch. Asshole barrier now thoroughly breached, others stepped up to give it a try. So I wandered off to do something that would entertain the child for a bit.

When we came back, Kinectimals was up. That was a struggle. You get a weird wavery impact-like special effect when the kinect recognizes a motion. And then it seems to just do whatever it feels like. That’s not strictly true, but it often felt that way. This may be a function of the game recognizing too many motions that are too similar, or of it being too rigid in what it requires for some motions. Still, the game was cute even when it wasn’t doing what anyone wanted it to do.

But there was one big problem with both the rapids game and Kinectimals. Buttons.

To start a course in the rapids game, you have to unzip a very short zipper. Even though you have a semi-transparent avatar in the background showing you the position of your hands vs the zipper, getting it to recognize that you have gotten it is tricky. Especially if you have a partner waving their arms around like they just don’t care, making the avatar’s arms break in entertaining ways.

It’s infinitely worse in Kinectimals. To start an obstacle course, you have a checkmark on one side of the screen or an X on the other. There’s no semi-transparent hands to give you any indication where it thinks your hands are in relation to the buttons, so you just have to slide around, waving your arms, and pray. Even the demonstrator apologized and said he can’t get it very often and to just keep trying.

Designing an interface that relies on buttons for a buttonless control system just ain’t working. But that’s on the developers of those games (or possibly the cert standards for the Kinect, I don’t know) and not on the motion control itself.

With the lag and the iffy choices for demo games, it felt, to me, like a very promising proof-of-concept, but not a baked-and-ready commercial product.

“One hundred fifty dollars.”


Shades of Sony’s “five hundred ninety nine dollars.”

Seriously. There is no way I would choose a Kinect (or Move for that matter) over a couple of games. Maybe for 30 bucks, but even then I’d be on the fence.

So, it’s a Wii?


Microsoft, quick! The reality distortion field is buckling! Fuel it with more marketing dollars!

To be fair, he was just a dude from a PR firm that was contracted by Microsoft. That could have been “All three times I’ve tried I had a hard time.”

We’re here!

Now we dance!

I’m seriously convinced that this is going to bomb hard.

Perfect headline missed by that much.

I’m just hopeful that I can somehow use my brand new Kin phone with Kinect. I mean, there must be a connection there, right? Kin…ect?

“Kin, say hello to Bob for me.”

I still love that.

Milo earnestly hopes this remains difficult.

Other stuff, like the price, aside, I do think that judging Kinect by its current state is a bit premature. This may, in fact, be what it looks like at launch. But it may not. I’m reminded of seeing Halo publically demo’d about a month before launch and seeing all kinds of problems. Those were gone in the retail build.

Dare to dream.

That’s what stuck out to me most too. And Angie, even if it was a PR flack hired by MS to demo it, they were trained to demo it properly (I hope!). The idea of the system is making HD consoles accessible to the masses through an intuitive interface. If you have to be trained to accomplish even the most simple of tasks, it has failed. If you’ve been trained to demo the same simple tasks and fail at being able to demonstrate them, it’s an immense failure.

After the utter embarrassment and two week post release cancellation of the Kin phone, I’m sensing this will be the next debacle from Microsoft. I really hope it doesn’t have a severe impact on investors. I’m getting very nervous of another video game crash at this point.

MSFT has been trending upwards after the cancellation of the Kin (June 30th).

Even if the Kinect sells zero units I don’t think the games industry will fold up and call it a day.

Yeesh, not encouraging in the slightest. My dreams of an interactive fighting simulation are progressing rapidly down the toilet of despair.

I think there’s a bit of difference between a piece of software and an entirely new hunk of hardware - unless the problems with Kinect boil down to coding issues. Kinect is supposed to be on store shelves in a little over 3 months - am I wrong in thinking they must already be knee-deep in manufacturing the suckers at this point? Wouldn’t that make it a little late to tweak hardware issues?

MS and Sony, imo, they know this gamble of competing with Wii will fail. Its just a matter of how much they lose. Kinda like Sony still selling the PSP as a next gen handheld… I dont know ANYBODY who owns a PSP… but alot who own a Wii and DS.