Microsoft’s stab at the next generation Wii – motion controlled play

Microsoft’s Kinect, the controller-free, gesture-based gaming platform that finally saw an official unveiling at E3 this week continues to surprise us, but not always necessarily in good ways. For instance, we think it’s awesome that the non-peripheral peripheral can tell when a child is playing and adjust gameplay to be easier. However, we’re quite nonplussed with the discovery that Kinect apparently doesn’t work well at all if you’re sitting down. Being a couch potato suddenly became difficult, and we certainly didn’t see that coming.

Gaming is a social media, and though Web-based play means that while your gaming buddies may not always be in the same room, any platform should be able to accommodate family-style play. This is what makes the child feature of Kinect so cool: People of varying ages can step up to the Kinect, which can automatically change gameplay on the fly to an easier level for youngsters without someone paging through menu screens to make the adjustments manually. And it’s not just theoretical: the folks at Kotaku got a confirmation of just such a feature from the developers of one of the first Kinect games Joy Ride.

But with Kinect, that’s not necessarily so. Bloggers that have been demo-ing Kinect and talking to game developers all week at E3 have found that you can’t really use the system – which aside from being a gaming tool is supposed to allow for gesture control of media like television content and movies – unless you’re standing up. Playing video games (and especially watching movies and TV) and firmly planting oneself on the couch go hand in hand, so we’re hoping Microsoft is working feverishly on a fix for this gaming gaffe.

Even if you do not know the difference between Super Mario and Grand Theft Auto, the Kinect system unveiled this week in Los Angeles, is the kind of technology to sit up and take notice of. Nintendo’s Wii console changed the rules of gaming when it introduced a wireless controller, selling 70 million, and now Microsoft is going one better and throwing out the controller.

Instead Xbox players will be able to use every part of their body to play, with motion tracking, facial and voice recognition, and a depth-detecting camera. But the system, which Microsoft says will be on sale in December and also be available for PCs, could do much more than revolutionize game playing. Microsoft’s Michael Herrmann says: “The potential of this technology is enormous. When you enter the game it will recognise your face and voice, it really personalizes the whole gaming experience to a level that none of us have seen before. People are going to have their own Minority Report moment in their own lounge room. People will see the motion capture technology in films like Lord of The Rings happening inside their homes. The only limitation on the development of content is developers’ imaginations. You can become the superhero if the game is about a superhero, it’s a totally immersive experience. Or people could simply be sitting in their armchair using the camera and chatting to a friend overseas via Xbox Live, it could be literally flicking through a menu of films. It could be leaping around playing an action game.”

Author: Jason Zajdel

Learning as I go along. It's an awesome ride. =-)