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Published on April 7th, 2013 | by Scot Mackay

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Blog: What is your Kinection?

I had a dream, it was beautiful….I would be able to pick objects up in games using my real hands, I would be able to project my  face onto my chosen avatar, I would be able to pick locks with subtle movements of my fingers and I would be able to manipulate anything in game that I saw fit…all without the aid of a controller.  I envisioned a mixture of something similar to the system Tom Cruise uses in Minority Report and the Batcomputer, but what I ended up with was something that makes me sweaty from running on the spot, sore from swinging my arms and legs around like an epileptic in a nightclub and slightly frustrated that there are so many limitations in place.

I liked the fact that I would be able to play, pause and rewind my movies using my voice.  I thought it would save in trying to teach the missus how to use my controller (apparently drawing out a coloured diagram is frowned upon and condescending, who knew?)  What I didn’t know at the time and much to my displeasure is that the voice activation only works for movies which have been purchased through Xbox Live and not for a separately bought DVD’s.  This irritated me as many of the movies available on Xbox Live (of which there are many) don’t tend to be competitively priced with my favourite tax dodgers, Amazon.  I did shell out for some movies which I knew I would watch repeatedly such as Aliens and Ironman.  This allowed me to use the voice recognition but it was quite soon I noticed a little problem….

I live in the north of Scotland where the men are men and the women are sometimes indistinguishable from other men,  I eat porridge and piss Iron Bru, I wear kilts and shout “Och Aye the Noo”.  I take my haggis for its daily walk and all the sausages I have ever eaten….are square, so what could this little black box which looks like the cremated head of Johnny 5 possibly do that would prevent me from using many of its features…….simple, It just couldn’t understand a single word I said 90% of the time. It was infuriating not to be able to actually use the function because I was the one defective piece of the puzzle, it was me!  This started a new hobby of mine, impressions.  Apparently it works for my George Bush but not for Nelson Mandela and it gets a little bit random when I bust out my James Earl Jones, but I can deal with that.  The Kinect does take samples of speech which it then adds to its database to increase accuracy with the multitude of dialects spoken around the world to aid in its speech recognition, I just hope it gets better soon as I have it on good authority that Sean Connery is still struggling.

Apart from suffering my teenage problems of never being understood, I forged on in my use of the Kinect.   As with a great percentage of the UK, I do not posses the body of Adonis, I do not have the stamina of a camel and I most certainly do not have the physical fitness required to bounce around in my living room like a 14 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert….so I faced another problem.  I made the catastrophic mistake of setting up my Kinect in my living room which just so happens to have two very large windows.  I know that when the curtains are open, any random member of the public who may be standing at the bus stop which is situated directly in front of my house will be treated to the eye shattering sight of a 20 stone sweaty man gyrating whilst mouthing profanities before collapsing out of view.

This was awkward indeed as there was nowhere else in my house that I could set up the Kinect due to the play space it required.  I don’t possess a tennis court sized living room which every advert showing the Kinect seems to have and it makes using the two player option quite difficult, but it does allow me to play Tetris by having to rotate every piece of my furniture around to make the most space possible which is just an absolute joy. The Kinect has fallen into the same area as the Nintendo Wii by only being fun if it is used for family and Party games.  The chances are you are never going to come home from work after 9hrs on your feet to stand in your living room and drain yourself of what little energy you have left…. but in the event of having a few people round, getting blind drunk and trying to bust a move in the Michael Jackson Experience and suddenly your opinion of the Kinect changes.  Is there anything funnier than watching Grandma body poppin’ to “Drop it like its hot” by Snoop Dogg?


Didn’t really think about the landing.

The future of Kinect?

There are many things that I have said that poke fun at the Kinect and highlight some of its bad points but the truth is,  I believe the Kinect is the next step in an evolution of gaming technology much like when triggers or rumble packs were first implemented on controllers. With any new piece of technology, there has to be a certain amount of time allocated to developers to get to grips with it. Hence why we are still seeing more beautiful games nowadays on the Xbox than when it was originally released.  Its all about utilising every last drop of ability and pushing its capabilities. If you coupled the Kinect with the Illumiroom technology and 3D gaming influenced by augmented reality could we be looking at steps towards home situated virtual reality gaming or even better steps towards our very own “Holodecks”? Maybe this is a stretch of my imagination, maybe a leap of imagination ….but….what If its not? A company has already taken steps to produce 3d images by using lasers to excite nitrogen and oxygen in the air and create 3D images without using a screen. The “Holodeck” scenario seems to have just taken a giant leap closer and I can already feel my inner Trekkie start to tremble with excitement. With very few peripherals making the attempt of reducing the barrier between the player and game, the Kinect is the first one that actually shows the direction that tech developers are taking to build these new experiences. You just have to look at the range of new TV’s coming out, clearly using the tech that the Kinect has pioneered to change channels and settings by using voice and hand gestures to see how many different fields of tech are being influenced by it.

In short the Kinect has become the bullied kid at school.  Ridiculed, laughed at and underrated.  One day that little kid will hit the gym and come back with more muscles than Brock Lesner’s neck. What this means for Kinect is that when Skynet takes over, the doubters will need to form a resistance or accept that it has actually improved many of their gaming experiences.

Only the future will tell.

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About the Author

A 33 year old father of three from Inverness who has a deep rooted passion for the noble profession of gaming. As a child he explored dungeons, defeated Dr. Robotnik, explored space and even managed to help Mickey and Donald escape the World of Illusion. He is currently the Charlie Sheen of Titanfall and Is looking forward to The Division. He is known to obey Wheaton's Law 60% of the time. GT: RayzingKane



2 Responses to Blog: What is your Kinection?

  1. David Guild says:

    I’m sadly one of the kids who would bully kinect, I dislike it but thats because its not the device for me. I’m an old school man with simple pleasures of sitting down and enjoying the game with an old fashion thing called a joypad. I got kinect and got the games and while its fun to see folk do it and even break a wee boggie to Dance Central or play the game that my geekness wanted but in the end it shall never exist (Kinect Star Wars) it was short lived like its old brother the Wii.

    I remember last year reading on some gaming media outlet who really wanted clicks which wrote a story out that seemly a few sites and newspapers put a poll out and asked about the Wii, while it sold well and most folk brought one after a few months it wore off and its owners gamed how they were taught … .using the controller.

    I think its a funny party device like the Buzz or Scene It controllers but to take over mainstream gaming? I thought gaming was for the folk who wanted to relax? If i wanted to play Modern Warfare VII like a real solider I would go to my local paintball arena, the graphics are better and the feedback system actually works. Holodecks take over gaming? I don’t know again it be nice to live out some fantasys but it still wouldn’t be relaxing like sitting on my chair with some headphones on and trying my best to score some points on the latest Pacman addition that is making its rounds.

    Plus the other features of the Kinect never interested me either, I’m faster button bashing my way through a few menus to watch a move than waving my arm to be picked by the sensor and then using my hand to move this arrow across the screen and hope to god no one walks past that it looses its place or jumping on the sofa so I can get as back as I can hoping it will pick me up. Plus I share the same fate as you with the whole voice problem but sadly it isn’t for the accent, being born and bred in Scotland didn’t give me the accent I hoped for as I sadly socially disabled with a few problems I have, my speech is the one that got me bullied all the way through school until I joined the rugby team and threw one kid through a door for calling me marbles, I have a speech problem. I stutter, and can’t prounce some letter which my partner has a good laugh by asking me to say “bra” which comes out “blah”. The speech therpy knocked the little accent out of me and being brought up in the posh part of Fife (which there is one place), Elie. The accent from there is quite polite.

    Sadly I’m a person with no sense when it comes to gaming world and I tend to try everything and thought why not. While I can see the tech being used with games is great but it self I can’t see it replacing (and hopefully) the joypad any time soon. The joypads greatest enemy isn’t just the keyboard and mouse its the touch screen, while really limited to mobiles and tablets touch screen games is the in trend, well to be honest its mobile gaming with a mix of touch screen and the thingies inside it that you can move about (I’m so tired).

    I’m never one for using my voice and using my hands as a pointer I still like something physical to touch which is kinda like Minorty Report as he is still touching a projected interface. I would like to see something like that more like a projection to get deeper in to the game. Something I can sit down but look about and enjoy every detail. Plus the head tracking software on the Kinect is great for racing games lol

    Great story mate and loved the 3rd paragraph 😉

    • Scot says:

      You make some very valid points and I have to agree, the best way to play Xbox is with a controller, Just the simple mechanics of using a hand held device to control you onscreen avatar makes sense in my mind.

      It could be that over years of gaming experience, many of us have an ability to pick up any controller for any console and instinctively know how to position our hands and fingers to reach every button. When many gamers made the move from various consoles over to Xbox, why was the Xbox controller so easy to manipulate in your hand even though the analog sticks were off set instead of being completely level? The controller was chunky, it had more buttons than most controllers required and yet….you picked it up and you thumbs found their new natural positions and each button was perfectly in reach.

      Now with the Kinect, I can see what direction they were going in and it truly was a step into breaking down some of the hardware barriers that prevent total immersion but I still think that gamers as a whole aren’t ready for the next step. It really is “Don’t fix it, if its not broken” kind of scenario. We grew up with controllers or keyboards so having that hardware that you can directly influence is a big part of gaming, you need to have the notion that when you push a button, there will be direct action. Kinect has tried to remove some of those barriers but unfortunately has been pushed in a direction where it only appeals to the casual gamer market. Whilst some developers use some of its features e.g. Mass Effect; Madden and even Skyrim making use of the voice functions is a nice idea but at the end of the day, your just a crazy guy shouting at the screen.

      With the Kinect not being able to pick up what you are saying can be infuriating at best. If there was some way of customising commands that it could record and then it would be registered to your profile would eliminate any problems that people have with it. Until this happens, it is sadly focussed squarely on the understanding of the American accent. I would want the Kinect to understand me when I get home from the pub completely plastered because that is clearly the state I need to be in to play it so I want this to be an option. It should still be able to understand any if my drunken rants as long as it has been programmed to do so. Problem solved.

      The ideas of total immersion gaming may be in the future but that’s enough to know that they are there and new ways will be needed to push the boundaries as technology progresses. Whilst the Kinect may not make itself a replacement for the controller, it certainly provides ideas. Much like the Sega Dreamcast was a failure in many respects but it innovated a generation of developers with removable Visual Memory Units, its online play and if you look closely….the design of the controller.

      I always love hearing back from people about anything I post. Thanks for giving me your points of view, its always good to hear what people think and its always great banter.

      Have fun and GAME ON!

      🙂

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