What is the Xbox 360 Kinect?

What is the Xbox 360 Kinect?
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Getting Kinect-ed

Microsoft revealed the Xbox 360 Kinect at E3. Up until E3, the project was being called Natal, but as of E3 that name is no longer official.

Kinect is an incredibly important part of Microsoft’s strategy for the Xbox 360. More importantly for you, the Kinect offers new features which you’ve never been able to experience on any game console before. So, what is Kinect, and how does it work?

You’re On Camera

The Xbox 360 Kinect system is a motion tracking device which records your movements and translates them to game input. If you’ve owned or used a Wii you understand the basics of what Microsoft is trying to do with the Xbox 360 Kinect. The Wii was very successful, and Microsoft wants some of the motion-control pie.

However, Xbox 360 Kinect isn’t just a copy of the Wii. In fact, the technology which is used by Kinect is much different than that used by the Wii. The Wii uses a motion sensor which is dependent on the controller you hold in your hand. The Kinect has no controller at all. Instead it uses a complex system of cameras to track your movement. Your movements are then translated into game input.

For example, in a driving game you might hold out your hands as if you were gripping a steering wheel. The Xbox 360 Kinect can see your hands, and it knows that they are hands. It then starts to track their movements. If you move your hands as if you were turning a steering wheel to the right, Kinect will detect that movement and steer the car in your game to the right.

Beyond Games

While the Kinect is a game controller, not every feature is targeted directly at gaming. There is additional functionality in Xbox 360 Kinect which will be tapped by Microsoft.

For example, Microsoft has shown plans to use Kinect as a media controller. Remember the scene in Minority Report with the interface controlled by the user’s hands? Think something like that. A wave of your hand in one direction might rewind a program, while a wave in the other direction fast-fowards.

Another obvious use of the Xbox 360 Kinect is as a webcam. There have been webcam add-ons before for the Xbox 360, but the Kinect is a much stronger and broader push. Microsoft hopes that a large number of its customers will have the Kinect. If that is the case, more features using webcam video can be expected.

Pricing and Release Date

Dance Central

Kinect is slated for release on November 4, 2010 and the stand-alone pricing is expected to be $149.99. Discounted bundles for those who buy the Xbox 360 Kinect alongside a new Xbox 360 are expected, but nothing had been announced yet by Microsoft.

The Xbox 360 Kinect will launch alongside 15 Kinect enabled games. They are:

  • Adrenaline Misfits
  • Dance Central
  • Dance Masters
  • Deca Sports Freedom
  • EA Sports Active 2
  • Game Party in Motion
  • Kinect Adventures
  • Kinect Joy Ride
  • Kinect Sports
  • Kinectimals
  • Motion Sports
  • Sonice Free Riders
  • The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout
  • Your Shape: Fitness Evolved
  • Zumba Fitness

As you can see, they’re mostly sports and fitness titles, which is a bit disappointing. These sorts have games have already been done to death on the Wii. However, some more interesting titles are planned. Fable III, for example, will be able to use the Xbox 360 Kinect. The Forza team has also announced a Forza racing project which will use the Kinect controls.