Hi all,

This week I decided to make a blog post about the most impressive release of these last weeks: Xbox Kinect. I’ve been really dubitative about this project since its beginning but I finally bought it and did some test with it. This post will mainly explain some technical details and then my personal experience with the device.

Technical

                I guess everybody asks himself “how does this nearly-magical device work?” Well I won’t explain the detail here, but you can surely find all the technical answers you want in the sources at the end of the page (especially in the presentation from MSR).
                First of all, I guess everybody has noticed that Kinect has three cameras which one of them is an infrared. The infrared sensor will detect the distances of each point in order to have a “snapshot” of the scene filmed by Kinect. These infrared points are mainly used into “relief” detection. The two others cameras are more useful in the face recognition process.
                Another interesting question would be “how are the move programmed?” Well, the move aren’t programmed, Microsoft’s researcher used some machine learning algorithms in order to recognize different movement. The movements are captured and then analyzed to extract a common pattern from a similar motion.

 

Kinect Set Up

                The kinect box was really smaller as I expected the camera should be 30-40 cm long, I had to find a plane and stable surface to lean it (the camera is motorized so, beware of letting it on a really plane surface). If you have a Xbox “S” version (the new ones), you will just have to plug an USB-like plug in the console, if you have older version don’t worry, a cable will transform the plug in a normal USB plug, the only thing you will need is another sector plug (for Kinect).

                Then the software configuration takes 5 to 10 minutes, the Xbox will install the drivers on the Hard drive disk (at least 200 mo free space needed), and then it does a few calibrations with sound and motion detection. After this set up, you are good to go!

 

Kinect in Action

                So how is really the game experience in Kinect? It has been some rumors of lag which really scared me a few months ago (yes I’m a FPS gamer, so I hate lag J ). Well I tried it in different games (kinect adventures, Dance central,... ), and the time of response is absolutely amazing!. Of course, you must get used of using the device, at first place it’s a bit weird not to have anything in the hands, but then you can really play perfectly. The shape recognition works really fine, I tried to make different weird positions and it was able to correctly port it on the screen most of the time (of course, if you try too hard, you can always cheat the machineJ). I guess the better game I tried was really the dance central, which provide a totally new experience: you are not tested only with your rhythm and a few motions, but your whole body is tested there!

                I also tried the device in “party mode”, which is basically for parties with people jumping in and out of the game. Well, the recognition of a new person takes a few second and then he can play with the others! The only problem with this mode is, firstly, that you will have to have a big living room to have a good gaming experience. And then if you get hang to other player the kinect captor can “merge” you into one people.

                Maybe a little funny fact, playing here is really exhausting! After each time I played Kinect sports I went to take a shower. You must run, jump, kneel… It’s really great and makes you move while you play! The console will also take picture while your games and then save them to the hard drive. You will have then some really funny picture to laugh atJ.

 

Conclusion

                Well, my feeling is really positive. The device is really great and I had really great time playing with friends and family with it. Of course, it’s really focused on a “casual” audience, better to play with friends during a party, or with your family. I really hope to see more “gamer”-oriented games which should really be great, there is a star wars kinect version planned for next year!

                Please check back our blog in a few days, and don’t forget to check Raphael’s blog entry about the “hacked” drivers for Kinect on Windows 7!

Sources

-              http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/events/fs2010/19165/player.htm  (webcast)

-              http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/events/fs2010/presentations/Kudo_Fitzgibbons_Kinect_for_Xbox360_071210_FacSummit.pdf -

-              http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=microsoft-project-natal

-              http://www.popsci.com/gadgets/article/2010-01/exclusive-inside-microsofts-project-natal

 Mikhail Chatillon,
Lead Student Partner Geneva