Why Isn’t Kinect Living Up to Promises?

Why Isn’t Kinect Living Up to Promises?

When Microsoft’s motion-sensing Kinect camera concept came to light, some of us had fantasies about turning our living rooms into the Bat Cave and bossing around our high-tech game systems with physical gestures and voice commands. Six months since the launch of the Kinect, most of us are still using our controllers to navigate our Xbox 360 dashboard – including the folks who bought a Kinect at launch.

Oddly enough, while the Kinect is still young, but it’s beginning to look like Microsoft is not in a rush to tap into the device’s full potential. A good example is the recent disastrous twining of Netflix and Kinect. Theoretically, you should be able to use Kinect to navigate all of Netflix with your voice and sweeping hand motions. Realistically, your ability to do so is extremely limited. Given that such a tiny portion of Neflix can be ordered around with your voice, there’s no point in putting down the controller to begin with.

Microsoft, you proved us wrong when we believed nobody would be interested in Kinect. Was our brief surge of optimism misplaced?

We hope not. After all, there’s still time for the Kinect to prove it’s capable of doing cool stuff. For instance, earlier this year, the real-time strategy PC game RUSE was hacked to add a Kinect interface. Ordering armies around with a mere sweep of your hand is a pretty life-affirming experience, so how about we see a real attempt at linking a strategy game with Kinect’s body-based controls? Bonus points if we can move around mounted Calvary units by scruffing horses between our thumb and index finger.

We’d also like to hear something about object scanning support. When the Kinect was still Project Natal, a big fuss was made over players being able to use the device’s camera to scan objects like skateboards and swords (toy swords, thankfully) to use in-game. So far, what little we’ve seen of the scanning ability has been impotent. There is, for example, a series of plush animals that can be “scanned to life” in Kinectimals. However, this involves requires the player to anticlimactically hold a tag up to the Kinect camera. There is no dramatic Lion King-style ceremony wherein the player holds his toy lion up to the screen and watches it come into being on the television. Sure, that’s ultimately a superficial thing to wish for, but let’s face it, it would just be cool. Why should a future-minded peripheral like the Kinect stop just short of giving us a really cool experience?

Initially, Project Natal was passed off as a taste of “Minority Report” with lots of swooshing windows and authoritative voice commands. The Kinect we’ve since received doesn’t quite live up to that promise, even though it’s capable of doing so (resourceful gamers who got tired of waiting for the wave of the future went ahead and churned up their own). There’s still time to instill confidence in the Kinect; after all, it has the potential to reshape how we interact with multimedia. But we need to see some indication that Microsoft is set to treat the Kinect as something more than a peripheral-free Wii imitator. At the very least, getting Kinect to make nice with Netflix would be a good start.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.


  1. The upcoming Kinect SDK http://bit.ly/htCoRZ is a strong indication that Microsoft is serious about the Kinect. The SDK is currently being tried out at many educational institutions to refine it before the official release.
    Microsoft understands that the best way for new uses of the Kinect to be tested and improved upon is by supporting the community of people who want to push the Kinect’s capabilities to the furthest extent. A codified set of interactions has not been developed for a system like the Kinect, as compared to a controller where across games buttons, triggers, and sticks tend to do similar things. It will take some time before developers reach the comfort level necessary for a AAA studio to even consider making use of it. Over the course of this year almost everything interesting happening with the Kinect will be on the PC.

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