I bought an Xbox 360 with Kinect a few months ago, and have done my best to fully embrace the idea and technology. The Kinect is definitely the future of how we interact with our in-home entertainment – gestures, voice command, facial recognition, it’s all there. Music and video content is readily available, too, with Netflix, Hulu Plus, Zune, and Last.FM (I don’t have a Zune account yet, to be honest). In fact, we were able to disconnect our TV service, saving nearly $70/month. The only time thus far that we’ve noticed is when there were bad storms around and we didn’t have reliable news – a problem that could be fixed with a $30-40 antenna from RadioShack.
At E3 last week, Microsoft revealed quite a bit of information about the future of Kinect – TV service is coming soon, as are additional video content providers. Microsoft also introduced a new feature, called Kinect Fun Labs. It’s an experimental area where you can simply play around with the Kinect sensor through a number of different random minigames. For one of these, you can create a bobblehead of yourself, adding some fun costumes, stances, and voice recordings. Once you’re through creating, the game gives you the option of uploading your creation to KinectShare.com, which I thought was rather interesting, so of course, I opted in.
KinectShare.com is themed similar to the Kinect part of Xbox, and seems to be a web-based storage area for your creations, as well as your photos/videos from other Kinect games, such as Kinect Adventures or Kinect Sports. Annoyingly (albeit unsurprisingly) the site is built on Microsoft’s Silverlight technology, which means I wasn’t able to use it from the iPad (yes, I have an iPad, more on that in a different post).
The first thing I wanted to do was share my bobblehead creation with my friends on Facebook and Twitter (because you know, I’m a social guy). Sadly, the only sharing button I saw was for Facebook, and it was a bit clunky to share. First, you have to use the KinectShare app – no use of the bookmarklet here. Obviously, I can really easily let the app make the post and then go through and remove the app from my approvals list (which I often do), but most consumers aren’t going to go through that hassle. Once it did post, you can see below that it wasn’t even optimized to really give good details:
I wanted to share my bobblehead with my friends because I’m still convinced that many more of my Facebook/Twitter friends have Xboxes, but somehow, I can’t seem to find a way to confirm that. I’ve posted my Xbox Live username several times on my stream and only gotten a few requests as a result, so my friends list is rather small, and therein lies my biggest problem with the Xbox thus far. I’ve owned it for months and have only played online twice, and only one of those times was with someone I actually knew (the other was a random online matchup).
I have a few friends, but to be honest, half of them I’m not sure precisely *who* they are. There doesn’t seem to be a way to find out someone’s *real* name through Xbox Live, so you have to either have them tell you their Xbox Live name (through some means other than Xbox Live), or you have to guess. My name is ‘rcadden‘, so I’m pretty easy to find, but I’ve noticed most people have completely random usernames that have nothing to do with the rest of their online presence.
If Microsoft is really going to take over the entertainment duties for my household, they’re going to have to do better than that. I have an HTC HD7, which is powered by Windows Phone, so why can’t I let the phone scan my contacts to see if there are any matches? Why can’t I tweet or update my Facebook status automatically when I unlock achievements? If I have a game that one of my Xbox friends starts playing, there should be an option to let me know that, either via email, SMS, or an in-game alert, so that I can decide if I want to invite him/her to play.
The Xbox with Kinect is easily one of the most fascinating, entertaining technology purchases I’ve made in a long while, but I’m disappointed to see that it’s so disjointed still. I can’t wait until Microsoft takes full advantage of the opportunity they’ve created and makes the experience more social and connected.
(Of course, as I request these social options, I should also make it clear that I also need granular access to toggle these settings. Let me be in control and you’ll find that I’m much more likely to share.)