I’m firmly convinced that when my daughter is old enough to play video games, I’ll hand her a controller and she’ll look back at me, baffled, asking ‘What’s this, Dad?’ The controller – with buttons and joysticks and the like, will be relegated to nostalgia, similar to Nintendo’s ‘Virtual Boy’ or the trackballs of yore. To further this, Microsoft recently released an upgrade to the Xbox 360 dashboard that redesigned the whole thing to be Kinect-enabled. Kinect, as you’ll recall, is Microsoft’s controller-free control system for the Xbox – it includes motion-tracking, such as gestures, as well as a microphone and voice recognition, for speech control.
The motion-tracking portion of Kinect is OK – it’s not superbly accurate, which makes the games more of an entertainment piece than something that serious gamers would be interested in. The system needs to get much more accurate to be able to take on real gaming. However, the voice control is phenomenally cool. I kid you not – the following situation actually happened. Aside from pressing the button to turn my Xbox on, I was able to talk the system all the way through from the main dashboard to watching an episode of Modern Family, entirely from the couch without ever touching a remote control. 100% voice. That’s amazing.
The news that Microsoft is now requiring its partners to make their apps ‘Kinect-enabled’ is no surprise. The improvement in experience is so significant that I wouldn’t expect anything less. In fact, the few apps, such as Last.FM, that weren’t updated, are now noticeably painful to use – even though they’re the same as they were a few weeks ago.
Now, imagine that when you buy your next Xbox gaming system (entertainment system, really these days), it doesn’t come with a controller. You simply plug it in and talk your way through the rest of the setup. Now, imagine that for a family, it recognizes not only commands, but VOICES. It would know that Reese (at age 10 or so) was the one who gave the ‘turn on’ command, so it would present a kid-friendly version of the dashboard. None of that scary Modern Warfare 10 business, just all butterflies and sunshine. The possibilities are endless.
Just plain crazy.