Thursday, December 30, 2010

I'm Kinected

I was blessed with a Kinect for the Xbox 360 this Christmas. There's probably some irony in the fact that when I was 10, my parents would have never given me anything like this. Yet, now that I'm 32, they went out of their way to find me the hottest video game system of the season. (I think my mother has much more time on her hands these days.)

Setting up the Kinect was incredibly easy. You simply plug it into the Xbox 360, it prompts you for the disc that came with it, and you’re done. The Xbox at my house hadn’t been connected to the Internet (or even turned on much) for the better part of a year, so it did about 30 minutes of updating once it was back online. Again, aside from the wait, no problems.

The Kinect must be between 2’ and 6’ off the ground, directly under or above the television. I had some trouble with this because I went to great pains to wall-mount my TV. I decided my best bet was to re-purpose an old music cart I’d built for my portable 8-track recording studio. I loaded the Xbox, Kinect and all the cables onto the cart. It rolls right under the TV. Then when I’m finished, it rolls back into the corner. I think I’m also going to add a couple brackets for Rock Band guitars on the edges for total video game organization.

Kinect Cart

So far I’ve played Kinect Adventures and Kinect Sports. I have to say, the infrared sensor works at least as well as the Wii. Occasionally it loses you, but not often, and usually it’s because you leave the playing area to grab a drink.

Unlike the Wii, there are no buttons to push. I can tell this was a noticeable challenge to the game designers. The most obvious replacement for button-pushing is jumping. At least in these two games I’ve tried, you do A LOT of jumping.

Kinect Adventures was fun for about an hour, but it only has four games that you basically repeat over and over. There’s only so many times I can put my hands and feet over the holes that fish are making in a glass tank before I’m not amused anymore.

Kinect Sports is also somewhat limited, but it does a good job at integrating competition between two players. While Ping Pong and Beach Volleyball might not be too taxing, try a couple rounds of Track & Field. I guarantee you’ll break a sweat.

Aside from high-knee running in place during the Track & Field, I never felt physically taxed while playing the game. However, I woke up sore the next day. While my body is used to low-impact, repetitious motions, it’s not used to the sprinting, jumping and fast arm-swinging involved in Kinect games. Whether or not playing those games for an hour every day would actually make someone lose weight, well, that’s hard to say, but every little bit helps.

I wish I was one of those smart guys who had already hacked the Kinect to fly their quadrotor remote control helicopter or navigate their computer like Tom Cruise in Minority Report. Instead, I give you this video of my family jumping up and down in front of the television.

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