Tag Archives | Microsoft Kinect

Kinect’s Milo Put to Bed?

More than a year old, “Milo” is still Kinect for Xbox 360’s most impressive tech demo. Sadly, Kotaku’s unnamed sources say the project has been cancelled.

The sources say the technology behind Milo will be put to use in another game based on Fable, a series of role-playing games developed by the same studio that put Milo together. But Milo himself is, reportedly, no more.

Milo debuted during E3 2009, when Kinect was introduced under the codename Project Natal. In a video, shown at Microsoft’s press conference, a young boy on the screen interacted with an older girl in real life.  Milo referred to the girl by name, responded to what she said and how she said it, and could even recognize a drawing that the girl showed to Kinect’s motion-detecting camera.

With Kinect due to launch in November, supported mostly by simple, casual games, Milo remains fresh in the mind. It’s a sign of Kinect’s potential even as Microsoft sees fit to mimic the Wii’s stable of sports, exercise and racing games out of the gate.

I’d love to see more than just mini-games from a device that can recognize movement, facial expressions and speech. Hopefully, the supposed Fable tie-in game will do great things, but I’m sad that such a powerful and simple concept — hanging out with an avatar — isn’t coming to Kinect any time soon, even if it’s a little bit creepy.


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Kinect is to Microsoft as Multi-Touch is to Apple

Gizmodo’s Matt Buchanan got a lengthy tour of Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360, the upcoming gaming peripheral that detects 3D motion with a camera and captures audio with microphones. His conclusion? This is the future for Microsoft, an idea with boundless possibilities that will spread far beyond gaming.

One project manager said Kinect’s technology could some day allow Star Trek Holodeck-style environments, no joke.

Pondering this, I can’t help but draw parallels to the way Apple has approached multi-touch. After popularizing two-finger scrolling in MacBooks, and gestures like pinch-to-zoom on the iPhone, Apple has steadily expanded the role of multi-touch in all its computer products. First came the multi-touch Magic Mouse, then the iPad, and now the Magic Trackpad. Apple put its faith in flat, pressure-sensitive surfaces, and it’s paying off. Microsoft is investing in the air, and hopes to see a similar expansion.

Motion control and multi-touch are not all that different in spirit. Both input methods are supposed to feel natural, as if there’s no barrier between you and the machine. This is especially true with Apple’s iOS devices, with which you interact simply by touching what you see. On the downside, neither input method solves the problem of physical feedback; anyone who’s tried typing on an iPad without looking at the keys should understand why that’s an issue.

For now, Microsoft and Apple are not having an input war. Multi-touch emerged from personal computing, and remains entrenched in it. Kinect’s origins are entertainment, and the technology will probably work back to the computer as an accessory for multitmedia and communications.

To oversimplify, Microsoft’s trying to kill the game controller and the remote control, and Apple wants to slay the mouse, and maybe the keyboard, but it’s clear that both companies have input revolution on the brain. They complement each other beautifully.


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Kinect for Xbox 360 Gets a Real Price: $150

Microsoft has cleared up a couple of rumors about a new Xbox 360 model and the Kinect motion-sensing camera, revealing prices and details for both.

The Kinect camera, bundled with one game, will cost $150, the same price Microsoft posted as a “an estimate only” to its online store a month ago. The game is “Kinect Adventures,” a collection of minigames that includes jumping and ducking to avoid obstacles on a moving platform, and moving back and forth in a raft to navigate through rapids.

Microsoft also has a new Xbox 360 model coming August 3, priced at $200 without Kinect. Like the one spotted on Amazon Germany last week, the basic Xbox 360 has a 4 GB flash drive and built-in 802.11 n Wi-Fi. Later this year, the console will be bundled with Kinect and Kinect Adventures for $300. No word on whether the 250 GB console model will get a Kinect bundle.

I’m glad Microsoft went with Kinect Adventures for the console bundle. I tried it at E3, and though it’s not a shining example of what Kinect could be, it’s a better tech demo than Kinect Sports, another minigame collection that just seems too much like Wii Sports. (For that matter, running in place for the hurdles minigame was too much like the Power Pad.)

Microsoft is promising more than 15 games at launch, including Dance Central, arguably the best use of the technology yet. The game is like Guitar Hero for dance, prompting the player to perform full-body dance routines and scoring for accuracy. In another strike at the Wii, Dance Central will cost $50, not $60 like most Xbox 360 games.

Kinect is coming in November, with pre-orders available now. I’m interested in theory, but still waiting to be wowed by the software. That didn’t happen at E3.


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Microsoft's Shady Kinect Pricing: What Gives?

Microsoft let E3 come and go without a word on the price of Kinect for Xbox 360, but now the Microsoft Store lists a tentative price of $150 for the motion-sensing camera.

“Official pricing has not been announced,” warns the site. “$149.99 is an estimate only and subject to change.” MSNBC cites a Microsoft representative who said that price is based on retailer estimates. Last week, Gamestop started selling Kinect for pre-order, also for $150.

As PC World’s Matt Peckham speculates, Microsoft wants to start selling these things ASAP, and it’s better to offer a worst-case price and drop it before launch if necessary.

Still, why hold off on an official price during the big show? I can guess at a few reasons:

  • Microsoft really hasn’t figured out pricing yet, or thinks it can bring the cost down between now and November 4.
  • Microsoft is still figuring out bundles — both with Xbox 360 hardware and with Kinect games — and doesn’t want to make a big announcement on pricing until everything’s squared away.
  • The general attitude in the press is that $150 is too expensive for Kinect (I beg to differ). Announcing a price at E3 could’ve derailed the product’s flashy debut.
  • A tentative price lets Microsoft see how many people are interested by the E3 buzz alone.

I imagine the answer is a combination of all those factors, but its kind of silly to sell something at a placeholder price in any case. I hope Kinect’s real price stops being a mystery in a week or so.


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Kinect for Xbox 360 vs. Playstation Move

The more time I spent with Playstation Move and Kinect for Xbox 360, the more I’m convinced that they’re both hitting the market about six months too early.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the hardware. Kinect, a special camera that tracks motion, worked fine — if not a tad laggy — in the games I played on the show floor. Same goes for the Move, which behaves a lot like a Wii remote, but also with a camera that traces the positioning of the controller in 3D space, and of course the benefit of better graphics. But before the show, I vowed to be skeptical without killer software, and neither the Move nor Kinect have it — yet.

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Microsoft's E3 Surprises: ESPN, New Xbox 360, Shameless Bribe

Short on shocking moments and big reveals, Microsoft pulled the trump card at the end of its E3 press conference today: Everyone in attendance would get a brand new, redesigned Xbox 360 for free. For all the journalists in the audience, it was time to make an ethical decision. For the rest of us, it was suddenly clear why Microsoft chose a small venue for the event, forcing many reporters, myself included, to watch via live video feed.

Microsoft’s new Xbox 360 model ships today. It’s not officially dubbed the Xbox 360 Slim, but it’s smaller than its predecessors and includes a 250 GB hard drive and built-in wireless n. Previous models had only wired Ethernet jacks and maxed out at 120 GB hard drives. The new Xbox 360, which comes only in black, sells for the same $300 as the current Xbox 360 Elite.

The new Xbox 360, and its subsequent gifting to the to the press, were among a few surprises dotting an otherwise lackluster press conference. Most of the games Microsoft showed off were obvious Xbox 360 exclusives, and looked just as predictable in action. Halo: Reach was more Halo. Gears of War 3 was more Gears of War. Call of Duty: Black Ops was more Call of Duty. And almost every Kinect game on display had already debuted the night before (the exception being Metal Gear Solid: Rising, which may support motion-controlled sword combat). The conference’s only new blood was a game codenamed Kingdoms, and its short teaser video had so little concrete information that the game is hard to get excited about.

But for existing Xbox 360 owners, at least there was ESPN. Rumored by the New York Times in January, ESPN for Xbox 360 will offer more than 3,500 live and on demand sporting events, including Major League Baseball, the NBA, soccer, college football and college basketball. No mention of the NFL, which has lagged on new media in general. In addition to the games, Xbox 360’s ESPN support will include trivia, highlights and voice activation with Kinect. Best of all, it’s free for Xbox Live Gold subscribers. The unanswered questions: When will the service arrive, and how subservient will the live broadcasts be to cable and local broadcasters?

Strangely, Microsoft announced a November 4 launch date for Kinect, but no price, nor any console bundles. Maybe the previous rumor of $150 is still in dispute.


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Microsoft Kinect: What I've Gathered Thus Far

As Microsoft representatives handed out smooth white tunics — they called them panchos — to everyone who entered the “Project Natal Experience” event last night, I realized this would be an unconventional press conference. Yes, Microsoft revealed some details and a final name for its 3D motion-sensing Xbox 360 camera, now called Kinect, but instead of using casually-dressed executives and a teleprompter, the company brought in Cirque Du Soleil for an elaborate show of audio and visuals.

The idea is that Kinect is a natural evolution of gaming. By removing the controller completely and sensing the movement of arms, legs and torsos, Kinect liberates the body — and gaming — from its primitive state. Hence the acrobatic dancers, animatronic elephant and jungle setting that filled the stage of USC’s Galen Center. But when it was time to show the actual Xbox 360 games, there was clearly a disconnect between the substance of Kinect and Cirque’s dog and pony show.

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