It's time for another test of a mainstream product trying to make it into your living room. I spent a few hours with Xbox Kinect over the Thanksgiving holiday. Kinect is a small item with cameras, sensors and all kinds of neat technology. To think it's only $150 is pretty amazing. It connects to your Xbox 360 and should sit at the front of your room under your TV or projection screen.
Kinect uses your body and voice for control. That's right-the remote control is gone! But better yet, it uses your body motions to play video games. With Kinect, the couch potato will come in last place while the jumping bean will win!
I tested out Kinect Adventures with two of my kids who were home for the holiday. It's a ton of fun. You have to jump, swerve, step, reach- basically do aerobics to play the games successfully. One really cool feature is that the camera snaps a picture of you (typically while in airborne mode) that you can view or send off to your friends on Facebook.
If Microsoft can figure out how to make first person shooter games work perfectly with Kinect, they may pull off a miracle in getting 90% of the video gamers in the world up off the couch and actually getting exercise like all the generations before them did.
The ads for Kinect imply that it will make the remote control a buggy whip. I don't think so. Yes, you can speak to it, and say things like, “Xbox Pause.” This takes a moment and, in all cases, it's faster to push the pause button. Also slower is how you choose things and navigate through the menus. You move your hand around, following the image of your hand on the screen. Once you are where you want to be, you have to hold your hand pretty still in front of the menu item until an icon circle thing fills up, which takes a few seconds of a steady hand. There is no question navigation is WAY faster with a real remote control.
If you are buying your first Xbox 360, I would recommend not getting the bundle and buying them separately. The Kinect that comes with the bundle gets its power from the 360 and is limited in its placement distance from the Xbox. If you've got an Xbox 360 already, I'd highly recommend getting a Kinect if you have any kids in the house or if you are a gamer yourself. You'll want to be prepared to laugh and sweat though!