A couple months back I sat down with our friends at WBIR to discuss Kinect, for Microsoft’s Xbox 360. At the time of the interview the system hadn’t actually made it in stores yet so I thought I’d revisit the topic now that I’ve had a chance to get my hands on one. You’ll also likely be excited to know that the company I work for is going to be giving away one of these this coming Friday, so you’ll want to get your name in the hat for that (full details here)!
If you’ve been under a rock for the past several months and find yourself asking the question, what the heck is a Kinect, let me boil it down for you quickly. Basically the Kinect for adds “Wii-like” functionality to your Xbox 360, meaning you get to get interactive with the games and get off the couch. The Kinect actually takes it a step further though and allows you to ditch the controllers altogether and just use your body.
What’s in the box?
The system I had the chance to review (and that we’re giving away) is actually the Xbox 360 Kinect 250GB bundle, and comes with the new slim Xbox 360, the Kinect sensor, a controller, a headset with mic, Kinect Adventures game, and various power and video cables. I was disappointed to see that the system didn’t come with an HDMI cable (come on guys…), so if you want HD, you’ll need to spring for one of those yourself.
A couple things to note here; as I mentioned the Xbox itself is the new “slim” edition… and while it is smaller, it isn’t THAT much smaller. At different angles the contours of the box give it the appearance of being skinnier, but it is really fairly close to the same size. The biggest difference is that the hard drive is now internal to the unit instead of attached to the top (or side… depending on how you have it oriented). Not that it really matters, I was just a little surprised when I pulled it out of the box. I guess I was expecting something along the lines of the PlayStation 2 slim… which was freaking tiny! Something I do really like about the design is the huge blowhole with obvious fan underneath. It seems that Microsoft has learned from their past design flaws and take cooling seriously this time around. You’ll also note that the new Xbox has heat-sensory buttons in place of the old “push and click” for the power and disc eject buttons. Classy upgrade.
You’ll also note, that while the system I reviewed is the 250GB bundle, there is also a 4GB bundle available, as well as just the Kinect sensor itself should you already own a Xbox 360.
Setup and use
The hardest part of the setup process is getting everything plugged in… and really, that’s trivial. Once everything is connected, you’re off to the races. The Kinect itself required that we load some software off the included game, but that was all automated; put the disc in and it takes care of the rest.
I was actually quite impressed with the sensitivity of the Kinect sensor. It tracks you quite well and recognized immediately when my wife and I swapped sides of the room. I also enjoyed the voice command functionality, and sincerely hope they fully integrate it in to the whole user interface, and not just leave it to the Kinect sub-menus. How cool would it be to be able to sit on the couch and kick off a NetFlix movie, all with just voice commands?! Pretty freaking awesome in my opinion.
One thing I kind of harped on a bit in the WBIR spot was the fact that the games out on the market right now are a little “cartoony”… and while that is true, it certainly didn’t make them any less fun. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the Kinect Adventures game and I could really see this providing hours of entertainment, and could be a lot of fun having people over for. Heck, my dad even got a kick out of it. Other games like Forza Motorsports and Kinect Star Wars game show a lot of promise as well, but I firmly believe Microsoft will need to really lean on the game developers to integrate the Kinect UI into their games for this thing to really solidify.
All in all I really liked the Kinect, and would definitely buy one should Santa decide not to bring me one. If you’re not convinced as it is, do some Googling around for “Kinect Hacks”… specifically this one. The things being done with this senor and a computer are amazing.. and promise to only get better. As a matter of fact, of the people I spoke with about the Kinect, most said they were going to buy one… not because of what it is today, but what it promises to become. Whether or not it actually turns into a totally new way to interact with computers in the future; it is definitely a fun way to interact with your 360 today. I’d highly recommend it!
Check out the video below for more info, and my initial thoughts on the device at the launch.
– Dan Thompson