The lights are on
Microsoft had such high hopes for Kinect. Jumping into the giant
wake created by Nintendo's smash hit Wii, the Kinect first debuted as the Xbox
360's response to motion-controlled
gaming in 2010. A huge marketing push drove early adoption of the peripheral,
with sales topping 10 million in just three months. The future looked bright.
So bright, in fact, that Microsoft doubled down by including
an enhanced version of the peripheral in the box for Xbox 360's successor, the Xbox
One, upon its launch last November. But with Microsoft announcing an Xbox One
bundle that removes Kinect from the package, the Kinect's 15 minutes of fame
look to be over. With this new reality setting in, we count down 10 ways the
Kinect failed Microsoft and consumers.
10. Asleep On The Job
Before Microsoft announced the Xbox One to the world, it
brought out a small group of journalists to show off the new hardware behind
closed doors. The centerpiece of the experience was a drastically upgraded
Kinect that boasted improved depth recognition and better camera performance in
low lighting conditions. Microsoft even said it could perform skeletal tracking
that would allow it to read the room and immediately identify users positioned
in front of it, signing them in automatically.
This sounds great in practice, but in reality the Kinect is
sleeping on the job. Using the device at home, many of us have experienced
scenarios where we sit down and start watching television, only to have the
Kinect recognize us after being seated for upwards of 20 minutes. These delayed
responses paint a drastically different (and inferior) picture of performance.
9. Anchoring Gamers To Entertainment
When integrating Kinect into the Xbox One, Microsoft had designs on moving the peripheral's functionality beyond simply supporting motion-controlled games and into everyday interaction with the myriad entertainment options available on the Xbox One. But the platform faced one
major hurdle that it never overcame – not everyone needs the Xbox One to be a
voice controlled all-in-one entertainment device, because just about every television, Blu-ray player, and streaming device offers a comparable suite of media apps.
8. The Resolution War
Whenever new hardware comes out, technophiles banter in
forums and on social media about which console is truly the most powerful.
Sometimes the differences are marginal to an untrained eye, but to the hardcore
these points of distinction matter and can influence purchasing decisions.
After the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launched, many noticed that Sony's console
was consistently producing better resolutions. Part of this
reason is the Xbox One partitions some of its power to the Kinect. The tech
wizards at Digital
Foundry speculate that the Xbox One reserves 10 percent of
its graphics resources to "Kinect and apps functionality." That 10 percent
being funneled away from developers was enough to funnel some users away from
Xbox and toward PlayStation. Now that it's unbundled, Microsoft has hinted that
removing Kinect could allow developers to access more of that power, but some
damage has already been done.
7. Thinking Of Voice
With the Xbox One, Microsoft spent a considerable effort to
create myriad ways owners could
use simple voice commands to navigate the dashboard. This came at the expense
of the basic controller-based navigation that the majority of gamers use on a
regular basis. This fact was not lost on Microsoft executives. After they
removed the Kinect requirement, Phil Spencer admitted
Microsoft needed to
rethink the user interface. "When we made the decision that you could
Kinect, we had to think about somebody using the dash with just a
he said. "Even if you have Kinect plugged in, there are people who are
going to use the controller for certain parts of the dash. We're
updating the dash for all users." That miscalculation didn't help endear
to the Kinect's cause, regardless of how cool the idea sounds of using
voice to navigate menus. It was also a half-baked approach, as three of
the thirteen launch countries still have no voice command functions, and
only five of the remaining ten have "natural voice/full functionality."
6. Tail Wagging Interference
Microsoft once celebrated Kinect's ability to use gesture recognition for menu navigation. Simply wave your hand
in the air and it would become a cursor, allowing you to hover the hand icon on
the app or screen function you wanted to use. This system has caused more harm
than good, reading my overzealous dog's wagging tail as a hand and fast-forwarding and rewinding movies at random
times. You would think a powerful camera that can supposedly articulate
individual fingers would be able to tell the difference between a furry tail
and a human hand.
Read on to see the Kinect's most significant failures.
Email the author Matt Bertz, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.