Microsoft recently launched their ambitious video gaming product Xbox’s motion sensor “Kinect”. Kinect enables a user to provide input to drive the game by using gestures and can control the complete game without using any controller. With the launch of Kinect, Microsoft has surpassed the gaming giants like Sony, Nintendo as this technology changes the complete face of gaming. As the tagline suggests for the Xbox “You are the controller” it’s a very apt tagline. Kinect an add-on for Xbox 360 console is built using the expertise and experience of Microsoft’s blend of game developers, interface whizzes and artificial-intelligence experts. Kinect carries a rectangular shape and with the three unevenly spaced eyes this black device does magic in gaming.
Microsoft India has announced the availability of Xbox in India on 24th Nov 2010. Following which Microsoft India organized a special exclusive preview event at Microsoft Offices in Gurgaon, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. I attended the event and it was a great experience with Kinect. As the MVP lead suggested in the invitation mail, one of the most interesting technology to come in future, and surely it was.
The event was scheduled on 27th Nov 2010. Being a bit early, before the keynote I could have an hands on Kinect with other few guests. Thereafter,the event fired with the keynote from Jaspreet Bindra, the Regional Director – Entertainment & Devices Division at Microsoft India who joined us for a peek into the future of console gaming, worldwide and in India, with Kinect & its prospects and rapid fire question rounds from folks which he answered quite candidly.
Recapitulating the points summarized by Jaspreet Bindra we get :
- Kinect is offered for a price of just INR 9990 in India. Bundled with Xbox 360 console (Xbox 360 4GB Slim console and Kinect Sensor) the price is INR 22990.
- Microsoft generally decides a codename for a project from the country or native place of origin of the senior Architect of the Product team. And now we know why it was named “Project Natal” first, on the name of Brazilian city of Natal as a tribute to the country from where Microsoft director Alex Kipman who incubated the project belongs to.
- Number of players that can play games on Kinect simultaneously is a maximum of 8. However such games will be introduced in due time. As of now games available for two players are available.
- Kinect maps 48 points in a skeleton of a player. The precision with which it maps a player would be increasing over time and we can see mapping of 96, 128 or more points in future.
- It was Graphical User Interface (GUI) in early 1990’s that changed the way of computing ad here is now Natural User Interface (NUI) that would be removing the last barrier between the user and the machine.
- To not to collide and injure, safety instructions are pretty simple, just maintain an elbow distance from your partner.
- Kinect name is chosen as a hybrid of words, Kinetic and Connect which by etymology, probably means connecting the motion.
- There is no discount for Kinect for any of Microsoft Employees, MVPs or MSPs. (A lot of people questioned him indirectly to get any hint of any discount and people failed to get one tip)
- Kinect also understands voice commands. People can orders to change games, mute the volume or fire up offerings etc that flow through the Xbox Live entertainment service. However, this service is restricted to a particular regions only (Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States). Factor being the accent and tone styles people have. Nevertheless, Microsoft is planning to expand its empire by introducing the voice recognition for Kinect for other regions too.
- Kinect is way ahead of similar products by its competitors. JB mentions “There’s nothing like it on the market."
- The focus of the Xbox India team will be on Xbox Live (the website) now, the biggest social network of gamers with 25 million users. The fact it has been ignored in past and doesn’t have a prominent growth in India is negligence of the team as they considered Broadband to be a vital factor for the development of Xbox Live platform ad the number of BB users are still meager in this country.
- Microsoft has sold 1 million units of Xbox 360 worldwide and expects to touch the 5-million mark by year-end. which can be highly favored by the festive period in US.
- An essential fact, Microsoft spends a huge amount of $9 billion in research and development annually, estimates the gaming industry in India is growing at a pace of 30 to 35 per cent. It expects by 2014 it will become a Rs 3,200 crore sector.
- Kinect helps families play and enjoy together. The games are for 6 to 60 (even beyond) age group. there is a place for every one in this Game.
- Kinect in India has been launched with 11 games in the genres of sports, adventure, fitness and dance.However globally it has been launched with few more games.
- JB doesn’t declines the possibilities of Kinect with Windows 8. According to him and as per many videos flashing around the web controlling the Windows using hacked drivers it wont be a surprise if we see Windows 8 next season compatible with Kinect sensors.
- Kinect was prepared to be more powerful in early development stages and consisted of an inbuilt processor. But increasing costs dint seemed a good idea to Microsoft and they later dropped that idea.
The event was quiet fruitful connecting to the Kinect and connecting with like minded fellows round the city. The event included a Pizza party sponsored by Abhishek Baxi & his team. The games made me workout so much I was sweating after a few games. And the very next day I felt my joints to be stretched out too. Being an IT professional, I usually have to sit in front of my work station all the day which curtails any physical exercises or sports. According to me, Kinect is a great way for people like us to keep in shape as it works in dual mode i.e. Stress buster + Health Care Taker. Infact, Microsoft is planning to launch aerobics games for Kinect in India which can bolster the reasons to buy an Xbox Kinect.
The number of Games I played included :
- Sports game like Boxing, Bowling, Volleyball
- Track & field events like Marathon, Hurdles, Long jump,Javelin throw, Shotput
- Adventure game like Boat ride
- Racing Game : Joy ride (My favorite one)
- Dance game : Dance central which can help you correct your moves if you are not comfortable on beats.
A Few of the shots from the event :
Setting up Vid conference in 4 cities, I am trying a shuffle the screen using hand gesture, Me & Abhi twisting in turns of the Joy ride. (L-R)
Mapping of points on a skeleton, Pizza Party, Me with Kinect sensor (L-R)
And after discussing the future prospects with a team member of Xbox India, we also discussed possibilities like Kinect modifications where a deaf can use his gestures language and Kinect will decode and interpret it and convert it into voice signals.
Personally I believe this technology is a step towards a change in how we interact with machines. The period between Kinect launch & Windows 8 would be acting as a buffer time for Microsoft where they can analyze & polish up this technology. As coined by JB in the event the first element of this two dimensional array which have been achieved by Kinect suggests as well as high end tweaking of Kinect drivers to control the machines, the day isn’t far when we can see the real life simulation of fiction as shown in a popular movie “Minority Report”.