Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Musing ~ Kinect vs. Move vs. Wii

Out of no where, the Kinect made a surprise appearance at a local mall here (even though it wasn't on the list of locations) and I was dragged by my friend this evening to try it out.

Initially I was resistant, assuring myself that there was probably going to be an insanely long line of people blocking all of the escalators, all while during one of Macy's sales that seems to happen every weekend. To my surprise, there wasn't a soul near the Xbox 360. Maybe it was due to this Kinect demo being last minute and an out-of-nowhere call. Maybe it's because it was a Sunday evening and most places close down at 6 pm. Whatever the case, there were more people interested in buying kitchen appliances and the 3 for 1 tank top sale then there were at the Kinect table.

So, it was just me, my friend, and the guy working the demo space, Fred. The system was one of the shiny new slim models (and now I understand why people have been clamoring over it, from an aesthetic viewpoint). The system was lying down width-wise with the Kinect sitting on top of it, facing a rolled down, lime-green, paper wall with a large blue X just a foot in front of it. The TV was flat screen, at least 48 inches wide. I guess to easily point out all of your mistakes and show why you suck at playing with the Kinect.

My friend was first, being the wonderful Microsoft fan boy that he is. First, the Kinect has to scan you to determine your height and approximate body bulge. You have to do the silly tests of “place your hand here” to make sure that the Kinect has scanned you accordingly. Then it’s on to game play!

The first game was Joy Ride, basically the Xbox 360 version of Mario Kart using the 360 avatars. You play the game by holding your hands out in front of you and pretending to grasp a steering wheel. For a speed boost, you bring your hands towards you and the push them back out while keeping in the steering position. Initial impressions were that the Kinect is an upgrade from the Playstation Eye and Xbox Live Cam. The body scan takes a more accurate projection of your height and weight, so there is more control over your movements within the game. Little twists and turns made with your hands on the steering wheel reflected fairly well in the gameplay. Not immediate accuracy, but good enough to get by and counteract with the minor inconvenience. We also found that you didn’t have to grossly exaggerate your moves to get the car to steer. You can do a small turn and have it relate to how you would really drive a car.

The next game was Kinect Sports, the bowling portion in particular. It’s basically bowling without going to the ally and wearing the smelly shoes. You have to pick up a ball from the return field and throw it like you would in bowling. You can move around, change which ball your hand is in, and even throw it granny style. My friend decided to lob it down the field like he was passing a basketball and the game responded to his action by giving him a gutter ball.

While all of this was going on, I talked with Fred the demo head about the green screen and the field of range for the Kinect. What it came down to was the Kinect acts a lot like the Xbox Live Camera. You have to be a certain distance apart in order for the Kinect to get a full view of your body. While the Kinect is better at adjusting itself to zoom in and out, you still need to be a good 5-7 feet away from the camera before the Kinect will begin to recognize that there is a person standing there. The green screen was set up to keep any passersby from being detected by the Kinect. And apparently it likes to pick up on multiple people/objects quite easily. So if you have a poster that’s loud and bright just behind you while you’re being scanned, it might get picked up as well and fudge your body movements in the game.

I played a bit of the bowling, and while I liked that it felt more like real bowling (i.e. holding a ball, putting a spin on the throw, etc.) it didn’t feel like a unique experience. It was Wii Bowling without the controllers, basically. The throwing still felt the same. The movement of the spin on the ball still felt the same. Putting the avatar into the game, is still the same. The only differences were the lack of controllers and instead of pushing left or right to move your position, you have to take a step to the left or a step to the right.

Fred also pointed out that when the Kinect is doing it’s scan, you have to stay as still as possible because it’s easy to become out of sync with the game. We found this to be the case when my friend was playing Joy Ride. Although he was pretty still, the Kinect pegged his weight 20 pounds over and 2 inches taller, which threw off the schematics of the wheel and forced him to take harder left turns then he probably needed to. I know little things like this are easy to compensate, but are equally as annoying that you need to spend the time to make those adjustments.

My impressions of the Kinect: Not worth $150 USD. I’d rather get a Playstation Eyetoy or Xbox Live Cam and obtain the same results. Here’s the controller/system break down:

Kinect: Overpriced Eyetoy. Gives a more accurate body reading then previous gaming cameras. Game choices unoriginal (copy/paste Nintendo!).

Playstation Move: Unashamed sex toy. Best in terms of controller fit with the hand. Small movements with the wrist not always detected.

Nintendo Wii: Longest in the motion control line. Has improved on slight movements of the hand/wrist/arm with the Wii Motion Plus. Still a little awkward to hold the controller. Can be finicky if you’re not properly aligned with the motion sensor.

Overall, I’m torn between Move and Nintendo. I think the move has the best hand fit controller, minus the pink/blue ball, so it’s easier to control your movements. However, the Wii Motion Plus seems to have a better reading on your movements (as long as you align yourself correctly) and doesn’t have to fiddle with cameras. Kinect isn’t even an option. $150, plus additional hardware you have to buy if you do not have a Slim system that will bring the total somewhere over $200. Why would I want to do that? I have a Wii system with the same games. I’d like to see how the Move handles FPS, Resident Evil in particular. That will be the sale for me. If I can try out the Move with that, and I like it, I will buy it.

Today’s demo has confirmed that I will not purchase a Kinect. Thanks Microsoft for saving me money.


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