I had an opportunity to play around with an Xbox Kinect over the holidays, and while it is an interesting piece of technology with a lot of potential, I wasn’t particularly impressed. I first attempted to play Wipeout, based on the ridiculous ABC game show. The game couldn’t tell when I stopped running in place, so my on-screen avatar would frequently run right into obstacles or off ledges. There was significant delay between my actual jump and my avatar’s jump. Counter-intuitively, the game was designed such that bending to the right made your avatar bend forward, and bending to the left would make it bend backward. I assume this was done because the kinect can’t very well detect forward and back movements. Now, these problems could very well be due to poor implementation of that particular game.

The second game I tried was Just Dance 3. My daughters have the first two for our Wii. The older of the two thinks that it works better on the Wii, but I can’t speak to this from my own experience. What I did observe was that the game was extremely forgiving in what it considered to be correct movements. There were several times that it got confused as to which player was whom (up to four can play).

The environment has a huge effect on the Kinect’s performance. When two ceiling fans were turned on in the room, the Kinect could’t see me at all. This may have been due to a subtle strobing effect caused by pot lights above the fans. My two-year-old nephew was running around, and the Kinnect would sometimes confuse me with him, even given our drastic difference in height.

The Kinect seemed to be good enough for the sweeping arm motions used in Fruit Ninja, but the more nuanced motions necessary for the other games didn’t translate well. There is a lot of potential, and the device is certainly selling well, but the experience didn’t make me want to trade in my Wii.

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