Kinect with Xbox 360 BlackAfter a long wait, Microsoft’s Kinect for the Xbox 360 went on sale in the US yesterday among fanfare and dance party in New York’s Time Square and the company is expecting to sell 5 million of its new controller-free gaming systems this holiday shopping season. We have been waiting and waiting for this little marvel – previously called Project Natal – for months.

Though Microsoft has made us wait for another week as the Kinect will hit the European markets on November 10th, we decided to have a look at what the tech gurus are saying about this small motion sensing camera that is expected to change the future of gaming as we know today. While I was expecting over the top reviews about the Kinect, just like we had very optimistic expectations from the controller, I was really put off to see the complete turn around in the opinions of the opinion makers.

Tim Carmody at the Gadget Lab explained how motion detection works in Xbox Kinect and also believes that it is different from a traditional game controller.

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“A traditional videogame controller is individual and serial: It’s me and whatever I’m controlling on the screen versus you and what you’re controlling. We might play cooperatively, but we’re basically discrete entities isolated from one another, manipulating objects in our hands.

Kinect is something different. It’s communal, continuous and general: a Natural User Interface (or NUI) for multimedia, rather than a GUI for gaming.

But it takes a lot of tech to make an interface like that come together seamlessly and naturally.”

The other technology analysts seem bit disappointed at the moment though mostly because of the price tag of $150 (£93) just for the controller and $50(£31) each for a single game title.

Ross Miller at Engadget believes the Kinect as hardware is great, but there’s plenty of room for software engineers and UI designers to improve. However, he expects Microsoft will continue to pool resources into improving the experience for a good while.

Comparing Sony’s Move, Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Kinect, he says “By the numbers, picking up Move starter bundle and an extra controller is the same price, and in that setup you also get a two-player experience. Move’s Sports Champions is arguably a stronger bundled title compared to Kinect Adventures. But really, we feel like both systems — along with Nintendo and the Wii — are just taking a different approach to the same issue. Where does interaction go next? How do you bring it to the living room? Back to the Kinect, though: we think there’s some fighting spirit inside that glossy shell, but it’s definitely got a lot of growing up to do first.”

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Confused like hell, Jason Chen at Gizmodo also doesn’t seem much impressed with the game titles available right now and the price tag as he goes on to say “Having only 1 title out of 17 launch games truly do something compelling and new isn’t a very good launch, especially for people who don’t like dance games. Right now, the answer to the fundamental question of “are you having fun with Kinect” is, unfortunately, “not really.” Unless you like dance games. The potential is there, but you need to think of Kinect like the launch of a new console: Wait until the games you really want are available—or maybe even the next generation.”

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Similarly, Ben Kuchera at Ars Technica is also critical of the motion sensor’s high price tag with little selection of games. He also believes that it will not remain a button-free controller and “Microsoft is going to release a Move-style controller for the Kinect within a year or so. Both gamers and developers are going to be frustrated by all the things the hardware can’t do, and they’ll demand a way to interact with games using at least one or two buttons. It’s not a coincidence that so many games at launch are in the same few genres, you know. The hardware simply can’t handle much else.”

There’s one exception though, David Pogue at the New York Times seems optimistic and believes that the Kinect, like Xbox 360, will be the saviour for Microsoft in the hardware and concludes, “the Kinect’s astonishing technology creates a completely new activity that’s social, age-spanning and even athletic. Microsoft owes a huge debt to the Nintendo Wii, yes, but it also deserves huge credit for catapulting the motion-tracking concept into a mind-boggling new dimension. Just this once, the gods have lifted the Curse of the Microsoft Hardware.”

While we trust the opinion of these technology big guns, we’ll keep our fingers crossed and wait to get our hands on the “game changer”.

This post originally appeared on mouse2house blog where I regularly contribute on Technology.

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