After an exciting launch, I get to grips with Kinect.
The unit itself, which is like a large webcam, is of a fairly sturdy construction, as far as I can tell. To help with the stability of the unit, the base is solid and weighted, adding security when the camera tilts. After going through the initial set up it became apparent that balancing it on top of the TV was not the best idea. The unit is motorised and as it tilted itself down, it wobbled rather precariously. A bit of maneuvering and anchoring later, it was all good. But then I came across another problem.
There has been a lot of mention about the amount of room that is needed to successfully play Kinect games. My living room is about 10 foot wide, which seems like enough. But once the sofa is taken into account and the fact that the TV is not flat against the wall, I was actually left with less than six foot of open space. This presented a problem and the first few games of Kinect Adventures had to be played whilst standing on the sofa.
It should be pointed out that the amount of room needed does actually vary depending on the game. But the standard is said to be six foot for single player and eight foot for two player. With that in mind, I knew that I either had to move the sofa, which would be difficult as there is nowhere else to put it, or find a way to have the actual camera further back against the wall. With a spark of ingenuity, I constructed a shelf of sorts that was against the wall behind the TV. Mounting the camera on there gave me the required six foot, but only just. Not really ideal, but I can’t afford to move home just to play Kinect.
I have not yet been able to work out the ideal light setting for using Kinect. It has been used in various conditions, from a pitch black room to a sunlit room, and it appears to work quite well across all of them, for the dashboard functions at least. When it comes to the games, I have noticed that certain games seem to have more trouble than others in less than favourable light conditions. I find this a bit puzzling as I would have thought that they would all be the same in this respect. But from what I have experienced so far, it would seem that the first party titles are the ones that perform the best. Overall, I would say that lighting the room with an overhead light source and closing the curtains seems to work best across everything.
Obviously we will be discussing the games over the coming weeks, but what about the Kinect’s dashboard functions? Well, first up, I have not yet had time to setup the Kinect IDs for all of the accounts yet. However, there was plenty of playing with the motion and voice controls of the menu. The first and most interesting problem that we have come across is that, of the three people using the Kinect, the voice commands are only recognised from one person. The machine occasionally listened to the other people, but it worked 100% of the time for this one person.
At the moment, a lot of the dashboard functions cannot be controlled via voice or motion. By saying the words “Xbox Kinect” the user is taken to a special Kinect dashboard that offers all of the functions that are voice controlled, such as Sky Player, Last FM and Zune. The functions are limited though and the Xbox360 is not quite “controller free” yet.
Similarly, the motion controls only have limited functionality at the moment. These are activated by the user waving their hand like a loon in front of the screen, slow waving does not work. They can then use their hand to swipe between screens/options and hold their hand still for a second or so to select. Overall, this worked very well from either standing or sitting on the sofa.
Well, it has not been long out of the box and I am sure that I will find other ways to mess around with Kinect over the coming days and weeks. The big thing for me will be the games, and thus far I have been very impressed. The problems I am having with using the Kinect will most likely disappear once I have practiced some more. It is no replacement for the controller yet, but I am guessing that will come with time. I am very impressed with how well the hardware works, as I was sceptical. But whether or not it gets regular use will depend on the games and new functions they enable.
The big question is how it compares to Wii and PlayStation Move. Well, looking at all three together, they all offer something different. Wii and Move are both very similar, with Wii having tons of games and Move working better than Wii, but having thus far very few titles. Kinect on the other hand is a completely different kettle of fish. Asking which is best would be like asking for the best between a motorbike and a car. It is simply a matter of preference.
Keep checking back to see our reviews of the games in the coming days.