/// Four Years Later, How Does the Xbox’s Kinect Stack Up to Its Original Vision?
“Product vision: actual features and functionality may vary” — Disclaimer on Project Natal E3 announcement video. How’s this for a blast from the recent past? It’s the original video that Microsoft used to introduce Project Natal, its console-connected camera, later renamed Kinect: With a new, no-longer-optional version of the Kinect at the core of how Microsoft is positioning the Xbox One, now seems like a good time to sort out what features from this dorky video have made it into the real world, and what got left behind in ProductVisionLand. Here’s my scorecard, based on three demos of the new Kinect’s hardware that I sat through with Microsoft representatives this year: Camera recognizes players : This one works as advertised, except that the effect is much subtler. In the demos I’ve seen, games didn’t “speak” when new people entered the room, but the console’s menus changed to acknowledge how many registered users whose faces it could “see.” | Ruling: Yep . Characters turn to look at players as they walk : Outside of this video, I’ve never seen anyone pace back and forth like Patton rallying the troops while gaming, so it’s neither surprising nor especially off-putting that this is missing. But, as Katie Boehret noted in her review of the Xbox One’s non-gaming features, “As I moved around the living room and talked to my mom [via Skype] from six different places, the Kinect camera panned to follow me, and even zoomed in on my face for the best possible picture.” So this is technologically feasible, though maybe not a high-enough priority for games developers. | Ruling: Sort of . Second-player-specific motion controls : Man, that pit-crew simulator game looks exciting, huh? Kidding aside, this one’s also MIA. The only Xbox One launch title with Kinect motion-tracking baked in is Zumba Fitness: World Party, a dancing game that lets two players dance at the same time. However, Microsoft says the new Kinect is more accurate than its predecessor, so it’s not impossible that we’ll see secondary motion controls in some game down the line. | Ruling: Not yet? . Full-body motion controls : This has been in the Kinect since the beginning, though if the new hardware is as improved as advertised, we should see fewer reports of fuzzy controls .