Thoughts on my Kinect for Xbox 360

I got what I wanted for Christmas! Santa, aka Sharon, gave me a Kinect for Xbox 360. It’s one of the hottest gadgets out there right now, and Microsoft expected to sell 5 million units by the end of 2010 (we might hear actual sales figures at CES this week). We’ve had fun playing with it over the last week, and it has proven to be a hit with friends and family too.

We have three games – Kinect Adventures, which came with the Kinect, Kinect Joy Ride, and Dance Central. I like different things about each, but I guess my favorite at the moment is Joy Ride. It’s really fun to steer, drift, boost, and stunt the car around the track! The interface seems to be the most touchy of the games, however. Adventures is also fun, but the downside is that it requires a lot of space in order for two players to play together. We have just enough space in our condo after we slide the couch out of the way. Dance Central is probably the most well-known Kinect game, and it is more or less what you’d expect from the makers of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. It’s fun, as long as you’re not afraid to look ridiculous! It also has a really attractive interface, with Minority Report-style swiping, rather than holding your hand stationary to select as in the other two games.

I have to admit, the Kinect is much more of a workout than I anticipated. There is no sitting down! If you play long enough, the Xbox actually pops up a notification asking if you need to take a break.

Kinect Joy Ride

One of the best parts about Adventures, Joy Ride, and Kinect Sports (which we don’t have), is that each game takes photos as you play. Some of them are just embarrassing! But they are fun to look at, and you can upload the photos to KinectShare.com, where you can download them or share them on Facebook. It looks as though that was built specifically for Microsoft’s games, but it would be fun to see it extended Kinect-wide (or better yet, just let me upload straight to Facebook or Flickr).

The picture above is pretty low quality, but I am guessing that is just to save space/bandwidth, because the quality of video using the chat feature is impressive. Sharon and I did a video chat on the Kinect with my parents who used a normal computer with Windows Live Messenger, and it worked flawlessly. Made me wish for Skype support on the Xbox (as that is where the majority of my webcam contacts are).

Another interesting feature of Kinect is the voice recognition. So far it seems to listen to Sharon better than it does to me, but either way it does a decent job of interpreting commands even with background noise. The downside is that it is limited to the “Kinect Hub” – a kind of mini-dashboard within the Xbox 360 dashboard. I look forward to broader voice support, so that I can tell my console to turn off, or launch Netflix.

I love the Kinect, so far! It’s hard to believe that the device I stood in line for over five years ago has changed so dramatically, but it has. And I can’t help but think that this is just the beginning. There’s so much you can do with a Kinect-style interface, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Thanks Santa!