Microsoft Kinect: It's worse than what you expect.

Mikey 9 comments
Microsoft Kinect: It's worse than what you expect.

We've had the Kinect for a few weeks now and have had plenty of time to form what I would call an accurate opinion of Microsofts' new gaming controller. But in case you just want this authors final word on the matter now - here it is: The Kinect is a useless gimmick which has no place in any gamers hardware collection.

If you want to read my justification for this seemingly obtuse statement, read on.

The marketing is propaganda.

That's probably not a surprise coming from Microsoft, but allow me to elaborate. Nearly all the official marketing demonstrates families sitting in the living room with a couple of spectators and a couple of people playing out in front. In some instances the entire family is sitting on a couch while a single person plays a game.

That wouldn't be such a bad way to advertise the Kinect except for one little flaw: It can't work in that manner. In fact the Kinect games we have request that we remove all the furniture from the lounge room before we attempt to play. OK, so we play along and remove the coffee table that is between the player and the Kinect, which is quite a hassle given it's size and weight.

The idea here is the Kinect needs a clear picture of the people playing the game, so tables, couches and anything else will confuse it. Photos like this one below demonstrate an actual impossible situation with the Kinect. I'll explain why.

Kinect Sucks

If the Kinect detects anyone else in the room it will often cause them to steal focus from the current players. I've lost count of the number of times I've walked behind my kids while playing Kinect Adventures just to get to another room only to have it recognise me and try to throw me into the game.

You can't have anyone apart from the actual players anywhere in front of the Kinect, even if you're several meters away. So the above photo is pure bullshit.

As mentioned in some other official marketing snaps we see a family all sitting down on a couch playing a game, which again is impossible with the Kinect. But don't take my word for it - read this heart wrenching story about the wheelchair bound girl who is completely ignored (and cannot use) her Kinect because it can't differentiate between people and furniture (or in this case her wheelchair).

The Kinect is inaccurate and high latency.

So you've seen those videos where the gamer performs some sort of action which is instantaneously reproduced in the game? That doesn't happen. The Kinect has very noticeable lag which makes it useless for anyone other than young kids who are forgiving of such things.

The things is that most gamers work and react in milliseconds, which is why traditional game controllers like game pads, steering wheels and mice/keyboard combos will always - I mean ALWAYS be far better for gaming than the Kinect.

Right now the Kinect is being heavily pimped as a 'must have' for the upcoming Forza 4. The truth is though that a game like Forza - or any motor vehicle sim for that matter - does require a high degree or precision. You will not - I repeat - will not have an accurate enjoyable gaming experience if you try to thrash a Ferrari around the track at 300kmh using the Kinect.

Not only is there too much lag, but you also have to use over-exagerated gestures for the Kinect to work properly. This means you'll feel more like you're driving a bus than a Ferrari.

The Kinect requires substantial lighting.

It's true. Once the evening approaches and the daylight begins to recede, you will have to rely on whatever internal lighting set-up you have. In our case those 75watt bulbs with diffuse coverings just won't do the trick. This makes the Kinect strictly a daytime activity only, unless you have some powerful lights sourced from behind the Kinect. That's right - direct light into the Kinect makes it even worse.

The Kinect requires lots of room

This one came a surprise, but yes if you anything smaller than a 4x4m closed living area, you're going to almost be standing outside the room. As it happens my xBox is setup in my Theatre room which while wide enough is also only just shy of 4metres deep. One meter of this is taken up by the wall unit that houses the big screen TV, bluray player and the xbox etc, which doesn't leave much room for the Kinect to 'work its magic'.

In any given game my kids are constantly reminded by on-screen nags to stand further back, which puts them almost entirely out of the room. If you have an open living area like the photo above you'll be fine, so I guess countries where living space is limited (high rise buildings and small apartments come to mind) will be screwed.

The conclusion.

In this authors humble opinion, gamers hoping for an improved gaming experience should avoid the Kinect at all costs. If it wasn't for the fact that my daughters (5 and 7 respectively) like it, I'd have taken it back for a refund already.

Consider this brief review a warning. The Kinect is an expensive gimmick that can't be taken seriously. Steer clear of it.



Sunday 23rd January 2011 | 11:42 PM
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I'd agree with the lighting and the room issues, but I wouldn't say it's completely useless. I do like the voice commands and using hand motions in the menus.

Though on the lighting, remember it is a camera. You need a good amount of light for a good picture. Too dark and you get all the crap nightclub pictures you see on the internet, too much and it's washed out.

I don't like having to move my couch to play the games, but using it for the menu is fine from the couch.

Though I'd agree it's still kinda gimmicky, it shows some potential. Though I'd wait for the $75-$100 USD price range before taking the plunge.

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Monday 24th January 2011 | 02:41 AM

luckily, i got a good deal on it, buying a new xbox 360 during the holidays and had some credit with best buy anyway. fully agree with this. the only one in our family who can actually use the thing is my 11-year-old daughter, who is very forgiving of its short-comings because Kinectimals was apparently programmed especially for her. otherwise, it's...ugh...for anyone over 5'6", and people sitting on a couch behind you had better damn well sit still. it might be a good proof-of-concept, i'll give it that but not much more.

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Thursday 27th January 2011 | 12:04 AM

Nice review Mike :o)

I agree with the idea that it is not ready to take a serious place on the market, and will upset a lot of buyer... But i am glad that companies contiues R&D... That is is the first step for any big improvement.

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Thursday 3rd February 2011 | 08:01 PM

My friend just linked me to this article and I had to chime in.

I recently purchased one of these things after using it at a friend's house and seeing some pretty cool things being done with it by the hacking community (and subsequently hacking it for myself) and I can attest to the fact that at least three things stated in your article are wrong:

1) It does not need very bright lighting at all. We played in a fairly dimly lit room with only one desk lamp on for background and it worked perfectly with Dance Central. Also, I just tested the thing running on my PC and it recognized me in total darkness except for the light my LCD monitor emits. That'd probably be due to the fact that it uses IR to see your body and track movement, and not the VGA camera.

2) My friend's set up was almost exactly like that pic up top with us playing in front of a couch with people sitting behind us and off to the side and moving around. We had ZERO problems with the game not recognizing us or giving false signals to the game so long as they were behind us. Walking in front is a different tale obviously, but the sort of background interference you mentioned (and the term "pure bullshit") seems really exaggerated to me.

3) I used a really simple publicly available UI program for the PC called FAAST to make this thing work with World of Warcraft as a proof of concept once I got the unit home and can attest to the fact that I was able to play it reasonably well while seated comfortably in my computer chair about 4 feet from the sensor.

Now, having said that, I will agree that the current crop of games for the thing are subpar with the exception of maybe Kinect Sports and Dance Central, and they do require you to stand with bit of space around you(mostly for safety I'd assume as they wouldn't want you breaking things or hurting yourself). However, if what I managed to do with minimal programming experience and the things I've seen from the hacking community are any indication at all, there's so much potential from this thing once developers figure it out that it's mind boggling. For instance, check these guys out:

Movement and environment interaction while standing still - watch?v=fEqmf7t2t3I

Playing Rome: Total War with voice commands - watch?v=VMKR4LSRii4

Delete the space in the links of course.


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Thursday 3rd February 2011 | 08:03 PM response to this comment by M1schiev0us. Or for those that wanted working hyperlinks without needing to do the space thing...

Movement -

Rome: Total War -

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Sunday 13th February 2011 | 04:47 AM

Interesting, we've had a much better experience with the Kinect.

My three daughters frequently play Kinect games in our Media Room (92" screen) in VERY dim light and don't have a problem and aren't too careful about being out of the field of view.

Are you far enough away from it? Have you calibrated it? Have you tested different mounting positions (above vs below TV/screen)? Have you set up a profile for each user and "tuned" it for each?

It took us a good weekend of play, testing, and tuning to get great performance.



Monday 14th February 2011 | 07:52 PM
235 total kudos response to this comment by Christopher. Yes I've done all of that. You must be very lucky to not have people sitting behind on a couch not interfere with the game because the system IS meant to do exactly that. If it isn't recognising everyone in it's field (sitting or standing) of vision then it's not working properly.

I stand by my initial opinion - Kinect is a hopelessly embarrassing gimmick, or an interesting experiment at best. In order for games to be - you know - fun, the control mechanism needs to be accurate. Kinect is NOT accurate. I challenge anyone to play the impending Forza 4, or any game that requires some level of precision using the Kinect for control and walk away with a positive gaming experience. It just - wont - happen.

As mentioned, the Kinect is for kids, though I'm having second thoughts on that as my 5 and 7 years olds both got bored of it very quickly.

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Monday 14th February 2011 | 08:30 PM

Is this your new spambot detection method?

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Monday 14th February 2011 | 08:33 PM

I came to your site while researching captcha alternatives ( hate those things!) and you said in your old post that your "hidden" method stopped working well enough to continue using, but never said what you did instead!

Can you email me at philip **guess what goes in here! ** to tell me your answer. Thanks, Mikey.

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