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Tech Report – Microsoft Kinect™

It may be the most anticipated – and most hyped – piece of electronic hardware for the home since Nintendo revolutionized video gaming with the Wii four years ago. Today is the day that Microsoft’s new Kinect motion controller system for the Xbox 360 goes on sale and, judging by the early response, it will not disappoint!

The idea behind the Kinect is disarmingly straightforward – and entirely futuristic. Instead of using a handheld device to interact with video games, why not use the human body? Instead of a motion sensor tracking one or more controllers, why doesn’t it track everything that’s happening in the room? Throw in some sophisticated voice-commands and we are now talking about real interactive gaming.

In a nutshell, that is exactly what you get with the Kinect.

Using multiple sensors, cameras and microphones, the Kinect sits on or near your TV and tracks everything – and everybody – in the room. Not only does it know where you are in the room but also what you look like, right down to facial characteristics and what you are wearing. Once you have set the system up, you can jump into a game and it will immediately put your likeness up there on the screen; leave the room and the game will automatically pause.

The Kinect comes with Kinect Adventures, five starter games that are perfectly designed to showcase the systems unique capabilities. You can work your way through a challenging obstacle course with Reflex Ridge; go white water rafting in River Rush; or fight back against attacking fish in 20,000 Leaks. In each case, your body movements and gyrations are uncannily mimicked on the screen.

It may feel a little weird at first, jumping around and contorting your body without any controller to justify the strange movements. But you get used it and embarrassment quickly turns to amazement and enjoyment as you test the limits of what the Kinect can do.

Many more games are already available, including Dance Central, which is sure to be one of the biggest hits of the year; Kinectimals, which allows you to interact with baby tigers and lions; and Kinect Sports, which is similar to Wii Sports but which encourages much more range of movement.

All Kinect games have to be played standing up. Not only will you not need the couch but you will probably have to move it out of the way! You need to be at least 8 feet from the Kinect to allow it to properly scan you and get its bearings on the rest of the room.

Like most voice-activated devices, the Kinect takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you find the right volume and voice tone, it will happily respond. That includes finding movies or other programming on the Xbox 360, and executing all the commands that you would normally use with a DVD player like “stop”, “play” and “fast-forward”.

If you already own an Xbox 360, you can buy the Kinect separately for $150. Microsoft is also selling a 4GB Xbox 360 with the Kinect for $300. A number of the more advanced Kinect features, like video chat and online gaming, will require Xbox Live Gold membership which costs $60 per year.

The Kinect is sure to be one of the most talked about devices and one of the hottest gift items for the upcoming holiday season. The video gaming and entertainment industry is known for moving forward with giant revolutionary leaps rather than taking small innovative steps. With Microsoft’s Kinect, the next revolution has begun!

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