Unless you have been asleep for the last few weeks you will have heard that the latest development to the Microsoft xBox platform has been released. Its called Microsoft Kinect (code named Project Natal until fairly recently).
Kinect is a webcam-style add-on peripheral for the Xbox 360 console (in fact it contains three cameras!). It enables users to control and interact with their Xbox 360 without the need to touch a game controller.
Instead your entire body is scanned and digitized in real time by the camera in the Kinect sensor, and whatever movements you make, your on-screen character can mimic. You can also control your xBox by speaking to it or holding up objects that the sensor recognizes. It is surprisingly accurate and actually quite magical.
I was lucky enough to pick up a Kinect on launch day and after a quick go in the shop I was convinced that I just had to have one. We have also now received our delivery for the Consolarium and we hope to have a few of these devices out in schools soon.
I love some of the little features that are built into game play. For example I like it that you can collect accessories for your xBox Live avatar (I have a sweat band and a baseball cap already!) and that the Kinect camera takes pictures of you at different times.
Games for Kinect are a little bit limited at the moment but the ones suitable for education include:
Kinect Adventures uses full body motion to allow you to play a variety of minigames, all of which feature jump-in / jump-out multiplayer play.
Each mini-game lasts about three minutes and titles include 20,000 Leaks, River Rush, Rally Ball, Reflex Ridge and Space Pop.
In Kinectimals you can interact with virtual wild cat cubs after you adopt one in fur town. Once you have adopted your cub you can do a variety of things with it including teaching it tricks, guiding the animal around an obstacle course, feeding and caring for your animal.
I really can’t wait to explore this game more and I’m also interested in how it utilizes Microsoft Tag as an additional game play feature.
Dance Central comes from the creators of Guitar Hero (so it was always going to be a hit with the Consolarium Team) and considering our recent efforts on Just Dance for the Wii we have all be practicing hard!
In Dance Central gameplay involves performing set dance moves which are tracked by Kinect and represented on the screen by one of eight game characters. The game features over 650 different dance moves spanning over 90 dance routines. I love the fact that it tracks your feet and hands and not just your legs (dance mats) and hands (wii).
Kinect Sports allows multiple players to engage in six different motion-controlled sports. The sports included are Bowling, Boxing, Track and field (Includes Hurdles, Sprint, Javelin, Discus Throw and Long Jump), Table Tennis, Football (Soccer) and Beach Volleyball.
As well as competing against a partner you can also play the game in ‘Sports Party’ mode and this allows you to rally a whole room (or class!) full of players into teams.
I’ve now had an opportunity to spend a little bit of time with all of these titles now and they are great fun with loads of potential. I also think that one of the interesting things that the Kinect will do is change the location of the xBox in the home by bringing it from the bedroom into the family room. In the same way that you find Nintendo Wii’s in many people’s living rooms. One of the reasons for this is space - you do need a lot of space to use Kinect. But the other reason is that lots of the games are really playful and will encourage inter-generation gaming and good honest family fun! Really can’t wait to get this into a few classrooms.