Yesterday Microsoft invited us to a private preview of Kinect for XBOX 360 -- at the beautiful MPE Penthouse. We have been invited to a handful of private previews this past year. What made last night such a pleasure was being able to see a very polished Kinect sensor. We were met by a handful of Microsoft Entertainment and Devices representatives -- they were very eager to show off all the refined features. Throughout the salon Microsoft had a number of Kinect stations setup for demonstration. We started off the night with Video Kinect.
Microsoft explained that XBOX movies can be accessed either through NetFlix or Zune, which supports 1080p streaming and 5.1 surround sound. The Kinect philosophy is "a controller free experience." So after a number of hand gestures, Harry Potter begins to play. As the movie starts you immediately see a scroll bar pop up. This scroll bar is controlled by simple hand gestures that allow you to stop, fast forward, play and rewind a movie. It was impressive to watch how easy and accurate the sensor was.
For me, the most impressive feature was the voice capability of Kinect. The sensor can actually hear your voice and understand it. One of the main concerns of the Kinect team was how to deal with ambient noise. The solution was rather novel -- you simply say "XBOX" and speak your command. When you say "XBOX," a dialogue box in the left corner of the screen pops up. This is to let you know, one that the XBOX is ready for a command, and two it gives you a list of commands. As an example, one of the young women said, "XBOX" and the dialogue box popped up with a number of choices. She said "stop" and Harry Potter stopped playing.
Another issue that the Kinect team resolved was pedestrian traffic. This is when someone walks in the field of vision of the sensor. Although we did not test it -- Microsoft explained that it's no longer an issue.
Microsoft explained that they are very serious when it comes to building ease of use into the system. The company understands that what might make sense to them may not make sense to the average consumer so they have spent considerable resources in user testing.
Kinect does not require XBOX Live and every Kinect sensor will come with a packing game -- Kinect Adventures. It is the goal of Microsoft each family that purchases Kinect gets to experience it as soon as they get home.
As the night winded down we took a few turns with Kinect Adventures. We were pleasantly surprised how well the sensors picked up our movements. Microsoft seems to be heavily invested in family fun, which is more than likely the reason for packaging Kinect Adventures. This is the type of game that the entire family can enjoy. We also loved the photos that were taken as we played Adventures that can then be shared via a social network such as Facebook.
Fifteen titles have been announced for the November 4th launch -- those titles include Kinectimals, Kinect Sports and Kinect Joyride. In terms of pricing, existing XBOX users will be able to purchase the Kinect sensor with Kinect Adventures for $149. Those who are new to XBOX will be able to purchase a new XBOX 360 (4GB) console, Kinect sensor and Kinect Adventures together for $299.It has been a long eight months since I started following this product. I can honestly say that it's great to finally see the (almost) finished product. I am told that there are still some tweaks to be made but that the sensor is ready for its debut. I predict that Kinect for XBOX 360 will be a holiday success.
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