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Examining the Limitations

Kinect’s technology was far superior to any of its predecessors, such as the PlayStation Eye, from day one. However, while it has revolutionized gaming by freeing gamers from their controllers, it was not without its limitations. Many of these limitations have been overcome already and frequent software enhancements continue to fine-tune Kinect’s capabilities and better integrate them into the Xbox 360 dashboard.

Much of the Kinect gaming experience is about getting up and playing. Advertisements for Kinect show people enjoying the system in spacious rooms with minimalist designs that are not necessarily reflective of real-world environments.

While you don’t need to live in a mansion or on a Texas-sized ranch to play Kinect, you need to stand at least 6 feet away from the sensor for it to see you, and about 8 feet from it if you are playing next to someone else. This can be a struggle in some settings.

However, on September 13, 2011, Nyko released Zoom for Kinect (see Figure 3), which promises to reduce the play range required by up to 40%. Instead of having to play 6 to 8 feet away from the sensor, Zoom enables you to play 4 to 6 feet away from it.

How does it work? Zoom are specially designed optical lenses that fit right over the Kinect sensor; there is nothing to plug in and no additional software or calibration is required. However, before you buy, be sure to read the reviews carefully. It seems to work well with some games and setups, but not for others. Still, according to a PCMag.com review, while it “won't magically make your Kinect work in a tight space, the significant increase in room for multiple players makes it a great accessory for Kinect users with limited room to play.” Zoom retails for between $20.00 and $30.00.

Figure 3

Figure 3 Nyko Zoom for Kinect

When Kinect launched, gamers had to stand upright for Kinect to track them. As of July 2011, Kinect tracked a 21-point skeleton 30 times per second. It can now track individuals while seated, and its capability to track individuals in any position is constantly being refined through software updates. Kinect can now also recognize finer details. It can track fingers and toes and can recognize facial expressions.

The latter capability is showcased in Avatar Kinect, which was launched spring 2011 and creates an avatar using a scan of your face. As your facial expressions change, so do those of your avatar. You can use Avatar Kinect to connect with up to seven other individuals in a virtual chat environment.

Kinect’s voice recognition capabilities at launch were only made available in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Japan. Mainland Europe had to wait until spring 2011 for the update. Initially, its voice recognition capabilities were limited to the Kinect Hub. However, the holiday 2011 dashboard update will be integrating more comprehensive voice commands into the Xbox 360 dashboard, enabling users who own Kinect to more quickly locate the content they are looking for simply by using their voice.

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