With Kinect, Microsoft Aims for a Game Changer

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J. DOe
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With Kinect, Microsoft Aims for a Game Changer

The relatively long article, at (WARNING: It contains some small gaming related images, either by themselves or as part of larger images) http://www.nytimes.com/...">http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/24/business/24kinect.html?_r=3]http://www..., says:

Quote:The company's blend of game developers, interface whizzes and artificial-intelligence experts has built Kinect, a $150 add-on for the popular Xbox 360 console that hits stores next month. With its squat, rectangular shape and three unevenly spaced eyes, this black device looks like a genetically underserved creature from "Star Wars".

In fact, Kinect arrives with a healthy dose of sci-fi trappings. Microsoft has one-upped Sony and Nintendo by eliminating game controllers and their often nightmarish bounty of buttons. Kinect peers out into a room, locks onto people and follows their motions. Players activate it with a wave of a hand, navigate menus with an arm swoosh and then run, jump, swing, duck, lunge, lean and dance to direct their on-screen avatars in each game.

"I can't tell you how many times I have seen people try and do the moonwalk," says Mr. Nichols, as he recalls their first, curious encounters with their virtual mimics.

Kinect also understands voice commands. People can bark orders to change games, mute the volume or fire up offerings, like on-demand movies and real-time chatting during TV shows that flow through the Xbox Live entertainment service.

The mass-market introduction of Kinect -- with its almost magical gesture and voice-recognition technology -- stands as Microsoft's most ambitious, risky and innovative move in years. Company executives hope that Kinect will carry the Xbox beyond gamers to entire families. But on a grander note, the technology could erase a string of Microsoft's embarrassing failures with mobile phones, music players, tablets and even Windows from consumers' minds and provide a redemptive beat for the company.

"For me it is a big, big deal," says Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive. "There's nothing like it on the market."

Where Apple popularized touch-screen technology, Microsoft intends to bombard the consumer market with its gesture and voice offerings. Kinect technology is intended to start in the living room, then creep over time throughout the home, office and garage into devices made by Microsoft and others. People will be able to wave at their computer and tell it to start a videoconference with Grandma or ask for a specific song on the home stereo.

"I think this is the first thing out of the consumer side of Microsoft in a long, long time where they are in front of everyone else," says Joel Johnson, an editor at large at Gizmodo, the gadget site. "I want a Kinect in every room of my house, watching me and listening to what I am saying. It's so sci-fi and next level that it would be amazing."

In addition to describing what the technology does and how Microsoft got past some of its technical challenges, the rest of the article also describes some of the current limitations and concerns regarding this product (e.g., trying to surpass its gimmick status).

I have been programming computers since 1979, when Microsoft was just 4 years old and 2 years before they released their first major product (i.e., MS-DOS), and I have used a lot of their technology since then. Since their earliest days, they have not usually been innovators, but rather followers. This Kinect product is a departure from their normal modus operandi, so I have my doubts about how well they will be able to develop the product to its full potential.

In terms of how this product may be used by, and affect, addicted gamers, I am very unsure of that. At first glance, I don't think that it will have much effect. However, note that my main "drugs" of choice are simple video games like Tetris, 3-D Pinball, Minesweeper, etc., so any of you who are more familiar with the types of video games that this product will be used with, please let us know what you think of this new technology.

- John O.

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