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Prepare to turn into a remote control for your game console

Kinect by Xbox 360 senses body movements to instruct computers

  • The X-box Kinect device
    The X-box Kinect device.Image Credit: Reuters/Microsoft
  • The X-box Kinect device
    The redesigned Xbox 360 sports a sleeker and smaller form than the original.Image Credit: Reuters/Gulf News
  • The X-box Kinect device
    Redesigned Xbox 360 sports a sleeker and smaller form than the originalImage Credit: Reuters/Gulf News
Gulf News

Dubai: Forget about what you think you know about being entertained in your home living room. And get ready in the very near future to deep-six those plastic remote control devices for your electronics.

After years of research and development Mic-rosoft-owned Xbox 360 has rolled out new game-changing technology that makes the human body the only remote control you'll ever need.

Kinect is a what Xbox calls a "controller-free gaming device" in the form of a slim black sensor unit containing highly sophisticated cameras which work in tandem to map and recognise body and facial movements to instruct computers to perform certain tasks.

Even under low light conditions, cameras can pick up the tiniest facial motion as a command for the Kinect computer software to initiate a game movement or initiate web chat with friends. "No longer are we confined by buttons," said Aman Sangar, Microsoft Gulf Marketing Manager for Interactive Entertainment Business, in an interview from the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles where Kinect was officially launched last week. "A new paradigm has been entered into how people experience entertainment. It's like starting from a blank sheet of paper, the old rules no longer apply," Sangar said.

Previously known as the top-secret Project Natal, Kinect will be launched on November 4 in the US along with 16 new Xbox 360 electronic gaming titles.

No date has been announced yet for Kinect release in the Middle East, Sangar said. "We will be announcing dates soon in the region," he said.

Prices for Kinect and the new 250GB Xbox 360 have yet to be announced.

With new games such as Kinect Sports and Dance Central, living rooms will be transformed into work-out spaces where gamers can kick soccer balls around or learn the latest dance moves in a completely wireless and hands-free environment.

Using a natural user interface (NUI), Sangar said humans and computers can now connect more organically.

The technology

The new Kinect technology, the company said, can "perform full-motion tracking of the human body at 30 frames per second."

He said, "We now have the ability to control the interface using gestures from the human body. The sensors track 48 points from the human body."

The Kinect device works by placing the unit in a way in which the sensors face the user, he said. Three cameras work sim-ultaneously to monitor body and facial movements in different ways. The cameras include "an infrared depth sensor that maps the entire area in front of the device in 3-D," Sangar said. The cameras also work by taking actual pictures of the person's face and body for recognition purposes.

While gaming is the central thrust of the Kinect's initial launch, Sangar said the technology will offer a world of new applications as new ideas catch up with its potential.

Even now, Kinect offers some interesting new options on some old themes such as an automated sensor that tracks web-cam movements so that a person's face is not ducking in and out of the screen frame.

"It has a motorised tilt sensor and when you are video chatting with someone on the internet, it moves with you, Sangar said, adding the Kinect device can be used by the Xbox online network or on the MSN network. "It's incredible from that perspective." Kinect creators also worked very hard to ensure that the revolutionary technology is as user friendly as possible.

Mike Delman, Corporate Vice-President of Global Marketing for Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business, said gamers no longer have to memorise hand-held control button movements. "You are the controller. You simply step in front of the sensor and Kinect sees you move, hears your voice and recognizes your face," Delman said.

Sangar said there is "such ease of use. It is jump in and play technology. The time for customers to start using it is literally seconds. There is no massive tutorial. People who have never touched a controller of computer game in their life can play this."

The sheer simplicity of making electronic games work simply by waving a hand or jogging in place in front of the sensors should also appeal to older generations unfamiliar with all of those controller buttons.

Microsoft also worked hard to make sure that the new Kinect did not relegate an existing 40 million older versions of the Xbox 360 games to obscurity. The new sensor can be plugged into older versions of the player. "Kinect works with every single Xbox 360 in the market. It is completely compatible," he said. "This is not about forcing users to buy a new console."

How Kinect will control your game

  • Previously known as the top-secret Project Natal, Kinect will be launched on November 4 in the US along with 16 new Xbox 360 electronic gaming titles.
  • The new Kinect technology can perform full-motion tracking of the human body at 30 frames per second.
  • The sensors track 48 points from the human body
  • Three cameras work simultaneously to monitor body and facial movements
  • Kinect is compatible with older versions of Xbox 360