This is the first of what might become a series of posts about Kinect by Pdad. His object in this post is to convince you he has some objectivity about Kinect. Don’t be fooled. He loves it.
It’s no fun when someone tells you how great a movie is and you get excited to see it and then it turns out to be good, but not excellent. You walk out of the movie disappointed when you could have spent the same money, the same time, seeing the same movie and enjoying it—if only you hadn’t gone into it with such high expectations. Am I the only one that this happens to? With that in mind, have you read my over-the-top positive review of Kinect? If you haven’t, go read it because that review reflects how I feel about Kinect. It’s great! But I don’t want to be to blamed for creating unreasonably high expectations. So with that in mind here’s every reason I can think of NOT TO LIKE IT.
Kinect doesn’t detect motion nearly as well as a person can.
We take it for granted of course, but it is amazing how well humans can interpret the movements other people make. Though Kinect’s motion detection amazes me because I’ve never seen anything like it, Kinect can misread your movements in ways that a friend never would.
Example: During the setup phase Kinect interpreted children who were standing as if they were kneeling. This happened once to Amelia and once to Duncan. (Could this be related to the fact that they have such long torsos?) This misinterpretation didn’t cause any problems but it did show that the system isn’t perfect.
Another example: if I put my arms above my head and cross them, I can fool Kinect into thinking that my arms are not crossed but that both arms are straight up.
The examples above don’t bother me. Kinect’s motion detection has worked extremely well for us in the games we have. The one detection issue I do find frustrating is the difficulty with helping a young child learn the system. If I help my child by putting her hand in the correct spot, more often than not, Kinect becomes confused. Instead of seeing two people, one helping the other, it sees a strange multi-armed creature and loses track of the hand that was doing the pointing. That’s a big negative because it interferes with your ability to help your child in the most natural way. As you can guess this is a bigger issue for smaller children. Standing on the sidelines saying “move your hand up a little” to a 3 year old doesn’t work particularly well.
Kinect requires a lot of space to play
We have Kinect set up in our family room which is 22 feet long and 14 feet wide. Our Kinect setup for that room has the place you play starting about 7 feet back from the screen and Kinect. The play space extends 5 feet back from that point and is 7 feet wide. The result is a very nice play space for 2 people to play Kinect Adventures together. A lot of people have their TV in a room that isn’t that large, or have it arranged in a way that makes devoting that much space inconvenient. According to the instructions, it is possible to play in a smaller space. My guess is that that won’t work as well.
Kinect requires a large screen
Our Kinect screen is borrowed from our computer. It is a 24 inch diagonal HDMI monitor and works great with the computer. I am using that monitor now and I just measured how far I keep it from my face: about 2 feet. At 2 feet away, it is a wonderful monitor. When I’m seven feet back, that nice large monitor seems pretty small. We certainly can see well enough to play, but the screen size makes you want to move closer to the screen. Especially as you get into an intensive game, the kids move closer and closer to the screen until the Kinect can’t detect them any longer. To deal with the problem of the kids moving out of the Kinect’s detection range, we placed the 5 foot wide rug we already had in the room so as to match the Kinect’s play area. This makes it easier for the kids to stay in the right place. Still, a larger screen would be nice. According to this online viewing distance calculator, we need a 50 inch screen for viewing 7 feet away. I see a new screen in our future.
The Xbox with Kinect is still not controller free
If you want a true controller-free game experience, Kinect delivers. You wouldn’t want a controller in your hand to play a dancing game and you don’t need one. But your family will enjoy those games best if Kinect can recognize you, and in order to do that you need to each have a profile, and in order to create a profile you need to use a controller.
Some people may find this bothersome. I don’t. If over time Xbox makes it easy to create a profile without a controller, great. But I’m not pining for that feature. In fact, see the next section, if I want to navigate the gazillion options to try to make an avatar with some resemblance to the person, the controller is likely faster and easier.
Xbox, allow me to use the controller if I want to.
Microsoft’s slogan for Kinect is “You are the controller.” In fact though, when you do use your body to do controller-like activities, Kinect is at its weakest. I’m not talking about playing the games. There you are moving your body in ways that wouldn’t work if you tried to reduce it to a simple left, right, up, down, button A, button B type input. Microsoft is right to keep that experience entirely controller free. But for navigating menus, you don’t gain much by using your hand (except it’s cool). When selecting options in game, I’m glad you can do so without the controller. Not requiring a controller means you don’t have to walk over to get the controller every time a game ends and you need to tell Kinect whether to play again, go to the next level or go to a different activity all together. But sometimes you are doing a lot of in-game navigation and a controller would make more sense. It would have been simple enough to program the game to allow you to use the controller in these navigation/option screens and Microsoft should have/should still enable this.
Kinect, don’t make me break a sweat
After having played Kinect for a while I sympathize with this criticism. Even the simplest games make you stand up. And sometimes you don’t want to work for it. You are in … let’s call it … a Bejeweled mood. So there you have it all Bejeweled players, you are forewarned. For the members of our family, having people get up and do some active, coordination-improving tasks is good. I don’t see us buying any traditional Xbox games.
Hey kids, don’t have the energy to stand up and move around anymore? Go read a book.