I Am The Controller

I have been writing a couple of times  that it was too bad I didn’t have an Xbox, or more specifically didn’t have enough room for properly setting up the Kinect sensor. However, after checking the space requirements and measuring my apartment, I figured out how by rearranging some furniture I could clear a play space just big enough to be Kinect-compatible. So when Amazon offered a bundle consisting of Xbox, Kinect, two Kinect games (Kinect Adventures and Kinect Joy Ride) and a 50 EUR gift certificate for buying additional games or Microsoft Points, I jumped on the opportunity and finally got an Xbox. After playing all the free games, this was the only way to earn more achievements on Xbox Live.

Update coming soon

I wanted to get it early in the fall, so when the Fall 2011 Dashboard Update would come out, I could get it right away. This update to the Xbox software promises some really cool new capabilities. For instance, it brings the same Metro style UI that I enjoy on my Windows Phone and am very excited to be getting in Windows 8 to the Xbox, creating one great, unified user interface across all major Microsoft products.

And also there will be voice control, as shown off in this video. I think voice control on a device you have in your living room were there isn’t much noise makes a lot of sense. In a phone, however, I am not that fond of it. I mean, while it is cool how many things Apple’s Siri seems to be able to understand, I wouldn’t wanna be seen in public having a conversation with my phone. I therefore do not think, Siri is bringing back any kind of wow factor. Also, when a colleague who as an iPhone 4S wanted to show off how to dictate a text message using Siri, he needed about four times as long to text me a simple “Hi Stefan” using Siri than if he had just typed it. Some people chatting two tables over in the restaurant we were having lunch at apparently was too much interference.

One other thing, I hope they will address with the fall update, is the media sharing situation. Right now there are myriad different ways of streaming content to an Xbox from a PC via Windows Media Center, Windows Media Player or the Zune software. According to this post on MSDN, however, none of these ways support all kinds of content. This is ludicrous. Why can I play MPEG2 movies shared via Windows Media Center on the Xbox, but cannot play those same MPEG2 movies when they reside on a file share on my Windows Home Server (as they happen to be doing in my case).

I am, however, happy that Xbox can play MP4 movies in Full HD (1080p). I have a couple of videos in this format that my current PC can’t play because it is too underpowered. It was thus nice seeing my 27 inch monitor showing off its full potential for the first time.

Finally, I am curious to see which of the features and kind of content they will have available for those of us living outside of the United States. The initial press release didn’t seem to have a lot to offer here in Germany. My guess is, as was the case with Zune and other features on Windows Phone, only a subset of the features and content will be made available here.

Future of Kinect?

In spite of my excitement for Kinect, however, I am not sure we will be using Kinect as shown in Microsoft’s Kinect Effect video any time soon. I mean, using your full body to play a casual game is fun, even tough it is exhausting, tough that is part of the experience of playing. But navigating through menus this way is rather slow and extending your arms all the time is also quite tiring. And since Kinect’s recognition of your body is not exact enough for precise movements, I would be really scared, if I had to the guy from the bomb squad shown disarming an explosive device in the video at 0:56.

On the other hand, now that there will a Kinect SDK for Windows coming with a commercial license in early 2012, who who knows what kind of cool applications for Kinect developers will come up with. It’s good to have one, though, so when these things do come out, I have the setup to try them out. And even if Kinect loses its appeal like the Wii has (happed to everybody I know who has a Wii), the Xbox is still a top-notch console for all kinds of other games.