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Microsoft introduces 'Kinect,' debuts souped-up Xbox

Microsoft has introduced its answer to the Nintendo Wii's gesture-based controls, an Xbox 360 add-on called Kinect that doesn't even require a remote.

Instead, the upcoming Kinect -- called Project Natal in such earlier demonstrations as its brief turn in the spotlight at January's Consumer Electronics Show -- uses an image sensor to track your movements, then translates that into motion on the screen.


A video on Microsoft's Web site shows how this can work: Two parents run and jump in place to guide their onscreen avatars down a running track and over sets of hurdles; their children dance in front of the TV to control their characters in a music video game; a father holds up one hand and moves it to the right to skip to the next segment in a video episode.

Kinext will ship in the United States on Nov. 4 at a price to be named, with Kinect-enabled games coming from such publishers as EA Sports, Konami, Microsoft's own Microsoft Game Studios, MTV Games and UbiSoft -- plus, later on, Disney and LucasArts.

To go with those announcements, which opened the annual E3 games conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft also debuted a smaller, quieter Xbox 360 model, with a 250-gigabyte hard drive and built-in WiFi, that will sell for $299.99 starting this week. Xbox owners with an Xbox Live Gold account will also be able to tune into ESPN content through their consoles -- but they'll only be able to watch games on if they use an Internet provider that offers access to that video site.

I realize that the Kinect video demo may be giggle-inducing. But then again, people also giggled at Nintendo's "Wii" moniker -- along with the entire idea of emphasizing simple, no-combo-button-press-memorization-required gaming. And look how well that turned out. So tell me, what's your take on Kinect?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 14, 2010; 6:09 PM ET
Categories:  Digital culture , Games , Video  
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The biggest issue I have with games involving motion controls is that the motions required are often anti-intuitive if they involve any game mechanic more complicated than simple limb movement (like a tennis swing or baseball pitch). I'm keeping an open mind about this device, but I was severely disappointed in the Wii's motion controls functionality beyond simple sports games.

Posted by: godfish | June 15, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Ya know what would be useful? If we could get people out of their houses. Want to play tennis? Find an actual tennis court and find somebody else to play with you. Make friends. Do actual exercise. Get some fresh air and sunshine. Use less electricity. It's win-win-win-win.

Posted by: fbutler1 | June 15, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

just what we need to get our citizens healthier - more useless crap.

we don't need more distractions, especially ones that are powered by fossil fuels.

Posted by: boblesch | June 15, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Give me a chair, a gamepad and the best graphics hardware and cpu out there. The only things I want to move are my thumbs. People who jump around in front of their consoles, looking like they're having a conniption, have no idea what gaming is about. If you want sports, go outside and get some air like the rest of sane population. Then, when you're ready to unwind, I suggest you crack open a brew, fire up a top fps title, flop down on slob throne, cue up a 45 minute online mission, and meet up with your pals on the cyber-battlefield and have at it. But please, put your motion controllers down, or you're not goona last out there.

Posted by: kreminitly | June 15, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Eh... The Kinect seems to have some potential for novel gameplay- but novel doesn't always equal compelling. I think they need to get the price below $100 (bundled with a game) to make it a viable option for people.

I think the big news is the strides the Xbox is making towards a true media hub. The new quiet drive and ESPN are good additions. If they get the rumored Hulu support it would be really easy to chuck the cable/satellite.

Posted by: jerryravens | June 15, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Seems to me the potential of a system like Kinect hasn't begun to be realized. For example . . .

1. The console knows where you are which means that instead of characters looking out of the screen in the general direction where the player is, the character looks at you and follows you as you move around. Imagine new possibilities for e.g. horror games where instead of jump-out-of-the-dark or gross-out moments you get to spend time locked in a small space with Hannibal Lector who's watching everything you do - with great interest and anticipation.

2. The system knows who you are. This opens up immense possibilities for tailoring the interaction to the user. You could enter lists of people you find attractive and the system could morph NPCs etc. toward physical types that appeal to you. Linked up to a purchase-history database similar to what Amazon and a zillion other places use software could modify game elements to mesh with your current interests. Been watching the Batman movies lately? The Joker shows up as the bad guy in your game. Just bought music by so-and-so? A track from the album appears in game. Cross-marketing taken to the next level.

3. Speaking of tailoring, if software is refined to be able to capture more precise body dimensions, think what it could do for shopping for clothes. Retail stores put their catalog on Xbox and you shop by pointing at articles of apparel to try them on. You then see an anatomically accurate avatar on screen wearing the clothing and moving as you move. Like it? Buy it through Xbox. This could drastically impact how clothes are sold.

With a bit of imagination, the possibilities of a system that knows who you are, where you are and has an accurate physical model of you are endless.

Posted by: Paramonk | June 15, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Why not kill two marketing birds with one stone and have Kin mobile phones be used as remote controllers for the Xbox/Kinect?

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | June 15, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

This will never work. The public wants to sit down and play games.....not run around and get tired.

Posted by: Bious | June 15, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

microsoft is taking a risk with this add on. remember what sega used to do? sega cd, 32x...all failures. kinnect will fail.

Posted by: BMACattack | June 15, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Sony had the EyeToy on the PS2 back in 2003.
Tennis, soccer, volleyball, musical instruments, boxing, athletics, bowling and a host of other fun games. Then had the Eyetoy Kinetic series in 2006. Fitness, martial arts and workout games. All good fun (as my 8-year-old kept telling me). Yes, all with motion and gesture control.
So Micro$oft have taken 7 years to copy all this? On inferior hardware? With nothing really new, except the hype. Just more of their me-too, no-original-thoughts-or-ideas-left practices. Won't be rushing out in a buying frenzy when it's finally released for sale.

Posted by: sandbagger | June 15, 2010 11:14 PM | Report abuse

Inferior hardware? I'm hoping you weren't referring to the 360 vs. a PS2.

Also, Kinect can do a lot more than the eyetoy (voice recognition/tracking limbs behind your body with motion prediction/etc). It's worth looking at, even if you don't plan on a purchase at launch.

I'm not sure what I think of all the initial games they are offering; going to look at reviews of them as E3 wraps up.

Posted by: thornharvestar | June 16, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Also, "Micro$oft" is terribly old. Like Apple/Sony/etc. aren't out to make profits themselves? C'mon.

Posted by: thornharvestar | June 16, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Wii Fit, Rock Band, Guitar/DJ Hero, eyetoy, etc. have all sold reasonably or very well. It can go either way. Peripherals aren't as much of a losing proposition as they once were

Posted by: thornharvestar | June 16, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

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