Thursday, June 30, 2011

Introducing the Microsoft KinectBox!?

There is nothing more stirring than wild internet speculation about video games! And no fanbase is more rabid than Xbox gamers! BGR is reporting a trusted source has confirmed Microsoft will introduce its next console at E3 in 2012. I adamantly disagree.

If this new console confirmation is indeed true, I feel it is too soon. The Xbox 360 has at least two more years before its successor should be announced. Microsoft would come off as being pressured by Nintendo if an announcement is made at E3 next year. I suggest the new console be announced in 2013, with it on shelves Holiday 2014.

For the sake of the internet, let's indulge this "confirmation" for a moment. Xbox is hot. Kinect is HOTTER. But aren't we speaking about the same thing there? That depends. Does Microsoft want to capitalize on an ecosystem or a peripheral? The logical reply is to capitalize on BOTH in this highly successful predicament.

I expect the next Xbox generation to introduce beefier Kinect hardware. ( i.e., the original Project Natal hardware, or better.) It is up in the air whether or not Kinect 2.0 will be the new console, or just another peripheral you connect to the new console. The huge advantage of Kinect being the new console is immediate developer support. Developers would be able to produce AAA casual and core titles around a motion sensor that every new KinectBox owner will have.

There are a few gamers out there who believe the current Kinect sensor will continue into the next console generation. I do not think that is the best business decision. Why marry last gen tech with next gen capability? Doing so will only take you to a certain point, which hinders the entire platform along the way. 

Providing software upgrades for Kinect 1.0  to keep pace with new hardware is limiting as well. Kinect is a camera at heart. The components (silicon, chips, lenses, etc) are hardware and should receive an upgrade in the next console cycle as well.

With that said, if Microsoft feels its new console will need a shot of adrenaline in the midst of its future life cycle; why not follow the business plan Kinect used in this console generation? It seems to be working so far. That is a valid argument and I am eager to see how it all pans out!

Microsoft has captured the casual gamer mind-share with Kinect; so the successor to the brand will resonate with that group at retail. However, it is widely held that the company hasn't been able to kinect with core gamers. How can Microsoft do that? 

I think core gamers will rally around the KinectBox if our favorite core software titles are enhanced by motion controls - not changed by input omission or supplanted by voice magic. Only a hardware based controller designed for Kinect can offer that solution. Whatever that controller materializes into, it should/will be packed into the new KinectBox. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Why I Purchased a Used Kinect (With a Coupon!)

I finally purchased a Kinect sensor this weekend and I did so on my terms. I sought out to find a used sensor from Gamestop which, expectedly, wasn't too hard to do. There was an in-store coupon for a 50% increase on software trade-ins, as well. So I jumped in.

Many families purchased a Kinect at launch and returned it for some reason or another. If I were to assume why, I would say those families became aware of how similar it was to the Wii they currently own.

So, I questioned the sales rep as to why the sensor has been coming back. He replied many buyers felt it was a glorified Wii; or that it came bundled with a Xbox 360 at an attractive price point making Kinect worth a purchase/try. I guess we all know how that turned out.

Regardless, their loss is my eventual gain. Here are the reasons I purchased a used Kinect - with a coupon:

- Price. A used Kinect with one game cost $130. After software trade-ins, I paid $89 with the Kinect Adventures title.
Family. My wife and kids will enjoy Kinect today...Me? Maybe Holiday 2011.
Used Status. If I understand the market correctly, buying used does not directly contribute to the number of Kinect units sold for Microsoft. (Please correct me if I am wrong here.)
- Core Focus: The Microsoft press conference at E3 promised several core titles with Kinect functionality coming this Holiday. Hopefully, their promise is solid.
- Project K. A Kinect test unit will be needed once the first prototype controller is ready. Which should be available in late fall.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What Do We Have Here?

Is this an officially licensed, wireless Microsoft racing wheel revealed at E3 2011? Seems so. But lets look beyond the obvious. What piece of Xbox hardware could best benefit from this wireless design? Kinect perhaps? I believe so, and here is why. (And doesn't it look like two joined Project K handles?)

Microsoft has a conundrum it can't easily resolve with Kinect sales numbers. On one hand, MS has the hottest motion control sensor in the gaming market that makes YOU the controller. On the other hand, YOU are a Xbox gamer; and there is a high percentage YOU belong to a little faction called "Core Gamers".

The problem is core gamers aren't buying into Microsoft's controller-less motion system. The Kinect sensor is doing extremely well due to casual gamer adoption, not core gamer adoption. Don't agree with me? Just listen to the recent E3 presser and count the number of times you hear "core" during the Kinect section. Microsoft needs core gamers to churn the Kinect experience.

This steering wheel peripheral reveal does two things for Microsoft. 1) Fills a hole of the racing wheel dropped from current production. 2) Most importantly - Fills a hole for racing fans and Kinect. The wireless feature ensures that.

How does this wheel's existence allow Microsoft to sidestep the immediate question of "is this a Forza 4/JoyRide Kinect controller"? Easy. The company can truthfully answer "No. Its our new racing wheel that replaces the recently dropped from production version." You can expect a similar statement to keep Kinect's tagline "YOU are the controller" in place. Since the peripheral wasn't mentioned in the recent E3 presser at all; MS has quietly offered a controller to a lauded controller-less sensor. I hope you can see that.

It is becoming painfully obvious Microsoft will have to introduce a hardware-based control standard for Kinect. To do that, the Kinect tagline "You are the controller", will have to be forgotten. And rather than debase that $500 millon marketing investment; expect Microsoft to forget the tagline in the next version of Kinect, that will be built into the next Xbox, which will demand a hardware controller. The new tagline will read "You are STILL the controller!".

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Better with Kinect Sensor!

The tagline for Kinect's holiday software push has been revealed! 'Better With Kinect Sensor'. How will the hardcore gamer respond to this marketing? I, hardcore gamer #140271, must admit the phrase is simple and direct. It creates a curious urge to see how 'better' the title is with Kinect. But ultimately, we gamers will be the judge of that claim.

It is encouraging to see Microsoft starting to get serious about expanding the demographic of Kinect. Its easy to attract the casual gamesheep when you hire Justin Bieber to spew forth 'new', 'fun', and 'awesome' phrases about your product on twitter between concerts. (After all, he does have nearly 10 million followers!)

That attraction is a little tougher, in my opinion, where the rubber meets the road among hardcore gamers. You know us Microsoft. We are the uber-loyal, passionate bunch who churn the gaming industry. We expect unprecedented control with this sweet new tagline. Can you provide it?

I still haven't purchased a Kinect. And depending on how true this 'Better with Kinect Sensor' tagline proves in the new software titles; I may be singing a different tune this holiday season!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Project K's Inspiration

I thought it would be interesting for all of you to see a couple of the objects viewed as inspiration in dreaming up Project K. I wanted the feel and interaction of using Project K to exude simplicity and encourage a wide range of motion in the hand. The ski pole handle and exercise equipment pulse sensors below fit that description completely. 

What inspired me about these two objects is how I don't have to think to interact with them. They are truly second nature. Again, this is what I am striving for with Project K.

It was doubly important to support the 'You are the Controller' tagline Microsoft heralds. You know, because we are still the controller even when using a hardware based input device with Kinect. How ironic?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Virtua Tennis 4 Kinect Questions

Kudos to 2K Sports for including Kinect support in their upcoming Virtua Tennis 4. The trailer above is very engaging and informative...on its surface. But, let's look deeper core gamers.

When it comes to the Kinect functionality, many questions are left unanswered by the clip. Here is what I want to know about Kinect and Virtua Tennis 4:

- Will the movement/running/speed of your player be automated in Kinect mode?

- Will skill shots such as drop-shots, overhead kill shots, etc; be available to the user?

- Is the first-person view of your tennis racquet/opaque forearm used to control your type of swing?

- Is the speed of your swing tracked by Kinect and relayed as shot strength?

- (Follow up to the previous question:) Is there dialogue or interactive tutorial on being safe while playing the game?

I think this could be a great showpiece for sports titles on Kinect! Whether or not it compels me to buy the sensor is yet to be seen. Michael Jackson: The Experience is filling that spot at the moment, nicely! (Hoping I win a contest at my 9-5, instead of wasting(?) my personal money on Kinect.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2011 The Year of Kinect!..?

Here we go! Microsoft top brass are mouthing off that 2011 will be the 'year' of Kinect. Is the company finally ready to show the core Xbox gamer why he should invest in the motion sensor? I hope so, but I sincerely doubt it.

Media outlets across the globe are getting Microsoft on record stating that, in 2011, Kinect will blow our socks off! To me, this sounds like a bunch of tailored marketing speak. A gaged media bite designed to keep gamers interested in Kinect. It's foretelling diatribe that will have us arrive at a more likely Kinect Sports 2 than Kinect Halo 3, this December.

Its all about perception in the market, ladies and gents. Did your company do what it said it would? Did your company deliver on its promises? This is what MS will lean on at the end of 2011 when the core gamers challenge the company on the absence of core Kinect experiences.

But, you may ask, how can Microsoft address those concerns in the affirmative? Well, I said it once and I will say it again: Microsoft is attempting to redefine the core gaming experience with Kinect. If you can tell the targeted customer base that Gunslinger is the new Call of Duty, support that claim with units sold, and parade that achievement on every screen you control; who is going to argue with you?

 I will argue with you Microsoft. Core gamer #1,134,792! And Project K is my air-tight defense!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Proof is in The Hacks

Everyday, I open my Google Reader app and find a new post about someone hacking the Xbox Kinect. The post titles read 'FPS are Possible with Kinect', 'Max Payne on Kinect Hack', 'Call of Duty FPS on Kinect Hack', etc etc.

I don't kow if many of you have noticed, but there is one commonality all the gaming-based Kinect hacks share. I specify gaming-based because, currently, there are two factions hacking Kinect. 1-Those who hack Kinect with gaming in mind. 2-Those who hack Kinect to build the very first holodeck! Whatever the motivation, each undertaking has merit.

The Kinect gaming hack commonality is the use of a physical hardware controller with the sensor. The hacker has to use some form of input for character movement, environment interaction, etc. A Wiimote is the preferred form of input. So this leads us to the following burning question: Is the hacked marriage between Kinect and a physical controller a complete coincidence? I don't think so.

I charge that this "coincidence" is the way core gamers want to experience Kinect - with a physical controller present. Not to mention, its the only way we can experience all of our favorite game genres with Kinect's cool features AND the motion-only software titles. (like Sesame Street Kinect!)

Will Microsoft (or anyone) acknowledge this commonality? I have! And the result of that acknowledgement is Project K. A hardware-based controller designed specifically for Xbox Kinect.

Just this morning, I ran across a twitter post detailing a noticeable decline in Xbox hardware sales. Hear me when I say this about Kinect hardware, specifically: IT'S ONLY THE BEGINNING.

Until Microsoft can lasso the core gamer base (Who stabilize hardware sales) with a familiar control scheme for Kinect, sales will continue to slide.

Agree or disagree? Why does Kinect need a hardware based controller? The proof is in the hacks!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The LED's of Project K

I must admit the front fascia of Project K has me at odds. So, I thought it best to elaborate on the inclusion of a fascia because many commenter's are questioning it's necessity.

The front fascia/guard of Project K houses 2 identical LED's that can produce an array of colors. Their basic function is to report pitch, roll, and yaw motions to Kinect. This was determined necessary as Kinect has/had a tough time recognizing subtle wrist turns in-game. (See Kinect Sports Bowling) But, the LED's functionality delves much deeper than that.

I felt a feature that would allow a gamers mood/temperament to be a factor in the difficulty of game titles could be a new experience. How should this work in Project K? Well try this, if you are sitting at your PC right now, take your index and fore-finger of your right hand and place it into the meaty base of your palm beneath the thumb on your left hand. Can you feel your pulse? This area of the palm is where Project K is in constant direct contact with you. As you game, your pulse becomes an indicator of the difficulty of the experience.

Project K is designed with a sensor in it's handle to monitor your pulse. I know that many of you are asking: Didn't Nintendo already do this? Yes they did with the Wii Vitality Sensor. And while a novel idea, it was hampered by a terrible design manifestation. Developers could have created very compelling software with a pulse sensor if designed properly. I can guarantee you Nintendo hasn't abandoned the patent it has on this idea. (See Wii 2.)

For a real world example of how pulse monitoring affects Project K's LED's in-game, consider your favorite racing simulator. Let's say you are in a dead heat for 1st place on the last lap of a championship race. You need to keep your cool, but you can't and your pulse quickens. The pulse sensor in Project K tells the LED's to display a stressed color palette. Kinect recognizes the color and instructs the software experience to behave erratically. Your steering becomes shaky, your vision blurs, etc etc. The game adapts to your current physical state in real time! The only way to regain control of your game is by slowing your pulse!

I divulged this information to gather the core gamer's response. I feel this is where gaming is headed. And with properly designed hardware, it can be a sweet ride!

Should I remove or retain the front fascia on Project K given the features detailed above? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Project K Design Reveal!

Here is the basic design of Project K. (The premise for its inception is here.) Many details, such as button aesthetic, button tech, and layout; have been purposely left absent. You are looking at the first design iteration, not those that followed. The views shown are not expressively detailed.

***If you wish to see the most recent and detailed iteration of Project K, please fill out the NDA and submit it to our offices.***

The Project K patent itself is one of 'Design', in formality. It was submitted to the USPTO office in the second half of 2010. (An inside USPTO connection has stated that first action on all new patent applications is currently at least 10 months.) Components of current console controllers are used within this device, and are presently patented by their respectful companies. So, a 'Utility' patent could not be filed for Project K.

The primary point of focus for Project K is to allow full control of all game genres when gaming with Xbox Kinect. Also, the design sought needed to be lightweight, of small footprint (shorter than a 4.3" smartphone), accommodating to all hand sizes, offer dual/single mode functionality, open/closed hand operation, and wireless.

Again, a few major details are absent. But, this is the gist of the design. Once the first prototype has been constructed, I will post real world images.

Please let me know what you think in the comments. Would you consider using a device such as Project K for gaming? I hope you like what you see!


1. Top Cap - Houses primary analog control input, chipset and silicon, bumper input.

2. Handle - Houses rumble motors, accelerometers, A/B/X/Y Buttons, security strap, trigger input.

3. Bumper location.

4. Trigger location.

5. A,B,X,Y Button location - 2 Buttons Per Device.  A/X, B/Y configuration. Full compliment of current 360 controller buttons and analog sticks available in dual/paired mode. Paired mode offers a traditional control scheme for core gaming titles.

6. Built-In Security Strap - Allows secure open and closed hand operation. For open-hand operation, imagine placing your hands palms out in front of you and fingers spread open. For closed-hand operation, imagine gripping a ski pole handle.

7. Base Cap - Houses power button, rechargeable battery, charging connector, Dual/Single mode pairing button/sensor.

8. Front fascia with LED illumination to report controller position and pulse information to Kinect sensor.