Review: Kinect Microsoft

It’s Smarter Than You Think

Despite its tiny footprint, the Kinect is loaded with sensors. To track players in real time it employs an RGB camera, an infrared camera, five microphones and a motorized subsystem. All these systems communicate with the Xbox through either a dedicated port (for the new Xbox 360 S), or a dongle for older models.

It Recognizes Your Identity and Tracks Your Skeleton

What makes the Kinect different from other motion-tracking systems like the Wii and the Playstation Move is how it scans its players. Unlike other motion-sensing consoles, the Kinect’s array of sensors maps the room, its characteristics, and its inhabitants. It rules out stationary objects, determining what’s a flesh-and-blood gamer and what’s a potted plant. And because the software knows the gist of a human form (head, shoulders, various joints), it can effectively distinguish between different people.

The Software Has Been Tweaked, Too

Along with the hardware, Microsoft has rolled out some major software updates. The Kinect dashboard serves as the hub for configuring, exploring and interacting with Kinect-ready content. Though it’s a little barren today,  Microsoft says we can expect to see a number of apps leveraging Kinect in the near future. Hellooo, voice-activated Netflix app.

There Are Decent Games, Just Not Many

Kinect is launching with a modest selection of 12 games. Though Kinect Sports and Dance Central were office favorites, the selection of hard-core titles is practically nil. Developers like Lionhead Studios are integrating Kinect capabilities into existing titles like Fable 3, so we expect more in the future.

It’s Not All Perfect: There Are Limitations

In our tests, Kinect straddles a line between delight and disappointment. In the tight confines of the Gadget Lab (roughly 7 feet deep), Kinect Sports had trouble “seeing” our feet during the soccer minigame. However, when we moved our setup to the get-gadget kitchen, we gained more space (and motion-capturing reliability), but lost voice-recognition accuracy because of the atmospheric din.

See the Kinect in Action

Terrence Russell (@terrencerussell) contributed to get-gadget UK’s November cover story on the Kinect.

For more on the Kinect, please read our extensive coverage on Game Life and Gadget Lab.

Photos: Jon Snyder/

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