Microsoft Kinect: Gaming That Uses You as a Controller. Big Brother or Big Seller?

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A guest tries out a dancing game for the Xbox Kinect at a party hosted by Xbox 360 in Los Angeles June 13, 2010. Microsoft Corp christening its new motion-sensing game system Kinect , on Sunday offered a sneak peek of upcoming titles it hopes will help draw a new generation of casual players into the 40 million-strong Xbox game console fold. Photo taken June 13, 2010.  REUTERS/Phil McCarten (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCI TECH BUSINESS)

Imagine a virtual world where all you have to do is wave your hand or speak and things would magically happen.  No more need for game controllers.

Nintendo revolutionized the gaming industry in 2006 with the Wii and its motion-sensitive remote, and now Microsoft has introduced the Kinect for the Xbox 360 at the E3 gaming convention.  Kinect uses video and audio sensors to track your  voice and movements so that you can interact with the game without a physical controller.  Is this the start of a creepy new world where video games watch you?  Or a fantastic new world where you can be in the video game?

When the Nintendo Wii was introduced, video gaming suddenly became a much more family-friendly and accessible to the general public.  Our family hopped on the Wii bandwagon and still enjoy playing it together.  The fact that game play no longer required finger dexterity and long periods of sitting opened the gaming world to both younger and older generations.

I’ve had experience with the Your Shape fitness video game that employs a video camera to track your movements.  At first it is a bit unnerving to watch yourself exercise, but it does provide a mirror into how you are doing compared to the target movements.  And there is no cheating with the camera.  If you stop moving your arms or legs, it knows.

Microsoft Kinect, formerly code name “Project Natal,” features a camera, audio sensors, and motion-sensing technology that tracks 48 points of movement on the human body for up to two people at a time.  So will this new technology continue to revolutionize the gaming industry?  I believe it will.  When you don’t have a physical controller, it is much easier to become immersed in a game.  Using your whole body to control the game puts you at the center of the action.  It is much easier to become the game character when you're not attached by wires or holding a remote.  It may be harder to time and perform specific tasks if the motion sensor is not sensitive enough, but initial reviews look promising.  Even though the Wii promised to get people off the couch, you can do most games sitting down with wrist flicks.  With Kinect, you will have to get off the couch.  Video games will truly become exercise.

Nintendo and Sony are not sitting back with this news.  During E3, Nintendo announced the latest handheld gaming device, the Nintendo 3DS, which has a 3D screen that does not require special glasses.  Sony also announced a 3D system, albeit with glasses, with the PlayStation Move, another motion-based system with a wireless controller.  It looks like we are heading to a future of video games that are 3D and don’t require controllers.  Talk about immersive!  The next wave of video game injuries will not be carpal tunnel but injuries from trying to walk into your screen.

Xbox Kinect is due to be available in stores during the holiday season of 2010.  Now if they can only work on holographic and telepathic games next ...

Contributing editor Angela blogs about all things family and geeky at mommy bytes.

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