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Should families kinect?

Microsoft Xbox KINECT SENSOR WITH KINECT ADVENTURES

Rating: ★★★★★

Installation of the Kinect was straightforward. It’s essentially a power cable to the Kinect itself and a lead from the Kinect to the Xbox so once all plugged in and switched on, the on screen instructions pretty much led you through the rest of the process. These instructions were things like placement of the kinect and room lighting and automatically downloading xBox software update from xBox Live. Not having the Xbox connected to the Internet would prevent you from downloading the updates so that’s definitely something to check.

Once installed and running there are some setup steps you need to complete. It’s a must for every family member to have a ‘mini-me’ or avatar. This is a character you create and configure to represent yourself in games. You do this by standing in fronting of the TV gesturing with your arms to select eyebrows, hairstyle and clothing e.t.c. To be honest this was tricky because, when ‘you are the controller’ at this point, it’s all a bit new and when there are five people to create avatars for it’s a bit tedious.

After creating avatars it is probably worth using Kinect ID to automatically recognise you and sign you in. The Kinect ID setup essentially asks you to copy certain poses and from this works out how to recognise you when you stand in front of the Kinect sensor. You’re advised to do this a few times with different lighting or if you dramatically change you appearance! We’ve had to do the Kinect ID setup on average twice each before we are reliably recognised.

Amazingly the other feature that doesn’t need any setup is speech recognition. When you are in the Kinect Hub (which is like the xBox dashboard area for the Kinect), providing you say ‘xBox’ followed by any of the other basic commands displayed on the screen the system without any configuration or setup will carry out that command. Saying “xBox, Play Game” does launch the game and what’s incredible is how naturally you can issue commands to the xBox, There is no need to shout or speak slowly.

Our Kinect came with the Kinect Adventures game and we purchased Kinect Sports game. Both games show off pretty well what the Kinect is capable of and seem to be pretty responsive and well crafted.

A fun aspect of the Kinect is that games can take video footage and photos of you during game play. We quite often end up in hoots of laughter about this as it catches some classic moments for example the time when I threw a javelin and hit the light fitting in the middle of the room and the time when my youngest son randomly walked over to my eldest son and cracked him on the head with a maraca.

Space is a massive consideration in purchasing a Kinect. The advice the Kinect gives is to move furniture, coffee tables e.t.c in reality this would be a massive hassle. As a guide We pretty much have to stand about five or six steps (not strides) back from TV. Any less may be alright for one player games but would be a struggle when you’re playing with someone else. Even with the recommended amount of space this new way of playing using your hold body do come with a warning. We’re loving Kinect Sports Table Tennis at the moment but my wife’s technique for backhand smashes have got a bit close for comfort with my head.

We’ve played Kinect games with people of ages from 4 to 60 and it’s certainly accessible to all. My youngest (just under 2) can’t play on the Kinect but has started to mimic my Kinect Sports Boxing moves and randomly waves his arms in front of the TV to control it. My daughter (4 years old) can join in with most games but on some her coordination skills mean that she gets a little frustrated when she jumps to early or late. We’ve also had issues with the kinect sensor recognising people wearing skirts or dresses. My oldest son (7 years old) has been transformed from a thumb twiddling gamer into a athlete and footballer that regularly jogs around the lounge.

Pros

  • Great fun to play with other people
  • Encourages physical game play
  • Easy setup

Cons

  • Space required
  • Lack of games
  • Can be too physical!

Verdict

For our family the Kinect has definitely proven to be a game changer and it’s a very clever piece of technology. Some of its limitations like space required are not really its fault. If you don’t have enough room generally for two people to stand next to each another and enthusiastically wave their arms and legs you can’t expect the Kinect to compensate for this. As a family we play together more and are more active with it. We’re waiting eagerly the release of some new well produced games as well as wondering what helarious moment of gameplay will next be caught on camera.

I guess we would think of it as a sort of board game for the 21st century, bringing the family together, having fun and bringing out everyone’s competitive side.


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