Interacting with machines with the wave of a hand or voice command seems like something from a science fiction novel or movie from the 1960s. However, today, motion sensors, depth sensing cameras, and even voice recognition are no longer fiction, but fact. While the application of such technologies seems endless, one popular way implementation is entertainment, and one device that makes full use of these ideas is the Kinect for the Xbox 360.
Those contemplating whether they should purchase an Xbox 360 with Kinect should read this document. This buying guide should serve as primer on the Kinect, starting with its history and main features. It will detail how the Kinect for the Xbox works, and the benefits of purchasing this device. The Kinect can be purchased from electronics stores, gaming stores, and big box retail stores. However, those who prefer the convenience of online bargain shopping should turn to eBay.
History of the Kinect
The Kinect was developed by the company Rare, which is actually a subsidiary of Microsoft. When the Kinect was announced on June 1, 2009 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), it was actually called Project Natal. Motion-based gaming wasn't entirely new at this point. The Nintendo Wii was launched a few years before, but it used a special motion controller. The Kinect was an entirely new because, as the demonstration at E3 had shown, it used skeletal mapping technology. This meant that the Kinect actually tracked the human body, and used this data to control the action on the screen.
One year later, Microsoft formally launched the Kinect at a special event dubbed the "World Premier of ‘Project Natal' for the Xbox 360 Experience." It was at this event that the device was first called Kinect, which was a combination of the words "connect" and "kinetic." It was released on November 4, 2010 in North America and a few days later in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Japan. In the first month, it sold eight million units, and set the Guinness World Record for Fastest Selling Consumer Electronics Device.
Features of the Kinect for Xbox 360
While many may think that the Kinect is merely a camera that tracks a person's movements, the device itself has a whole range of features that make gaming more interactive and fun than just using a regular controller. The chart below shows the different features of the Kinect for Xbox 360.
RGB camera with depth sensor
Tracks full motion of the body in 3D, which is translated into movements of characters and avatars on the games for the Xbox 360; also maps the spatial characteristics of any room the device is placed
Allows the Kinect to filter out ambient sound, and actually recognize and localize where the sounds are originating
Facial and voice recognition software
Allows the Kinect to identify and track the player according to facial features and voice patterns; tracks up to six people, including two active players
The Kinect certainly is the first device of its kind, combining a variety of technologies to provide an enhanced gaming experience. Players can use their bodies to control the action on the screen, and this brings the industry closer to true virtual reality gaming.
How the Xbox 360 with Kinect Works
While it may seem like magic, how the Kinect works is pure science. The Kinect device, along with the Xbox 360 hardware and software, processes millions of bytes of data in a split second. To explain how the device works, it's best to look how the Kinect Sensor functions and then how the data it collects is turned into gameplay action.
The Kinect Sensor
The Kinect sensor is a black box that is placed near the TV being used with the Xbox. The sensor consists of a Color VGA video camera, a depth sensor, and a multi-array microphone. The camera and the depth sensor work together to capture the movements of the player. These two components create a 3D image of the objects within its sight and recognizes the shape and movements of the human players. It does this by sending out near-infrared light and waits for it to bounce back to the sensors, similar to the way sonar works. It calculates the amount of time it takes for the light to return, and using this data, it can recognize all the objects in the area.
This method is very accurate, and the Kinect can actually discern an object's dimensions (depth, height, and width) within millimeters. Aside from detecting 48 individual points on the body and their movements, it can even recognize facial features, so it "knows" the player. The multi-array microphone can recognize where the player is standing or sitting, and it can screen out ambient sounds so the player can use voice controls even from a few feet away.
The Xbox Software and Processor
The software and Xbox processor are the next integral parts of the Kinect. They act as the brain of the Kinect and interpret what the sensor detects as something meaningful. First, they map out the space where the users are located, and then identifies each individual player. This central brain can actually distinguish 48 separate points on the body to reproduce a digital version of the body within the system. Aside from the user's shape and skeletal joints, it can also map out facial features, allowing it to recognize a player.
What's quite amazing about the Kinect is that it actually learns motions from the players, rather than producing pre-programmed movements. The problem with pre-programming movements is that it doesn't account for the differences in age, heights, and sizes between people. The distance of the skeletal joint of a six-foot tall adult would be vastly different from that of a four-foot tall child. Also, a man would move differently from a woman, and most likely be wearing different clothes too. Using the same data for people of varying shapes and sizes would make the movements inaccurate, while storing and processing movements for all possible variations of players would be too time consuming.
Therefore, what the developers did was motion-capture thousands of gestures from people, then ran these through a special machine-learning algorithm that remembers these movements. Then, they used the data and created variations based on different body types, genders, and even the clothing people wore. What the Kinect actually does is match these variations with the different movements, and adjusts the distances between the joints to make an accurate digital model of the player.
Benefits of the Kinect for Xbox 360
The Kinect for Xbox can provide various benefits for gamers of all types. With the Kinect, people of all ages can enjoy different video games. These also translate into other benefits, including increased physical activity, controller-free gaming, and a more interactive and fun gaming experience.
Increased Physical Activity
It's no secret that people today are not as healthy as they used to be. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), over one-third of Americans are classified as obese. Obesity can lead to a variety of diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, and strokes. People go through a revolving door of fad diets and pills, but experts agree that a healthy diet and regular exercise are the best ways to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Video gaming used to be a hobby for couch potatoes. After all, the most physical activity gamers get during 12-hour gaming binges was getting up to grab more Cheetos from the kitchen. However, the Xbox 360 with Kinect encourages these gamers to get off the couch and start moving. This means players are exercising and burning more calories than they would during regular gaming. Eighteen separate studies with a combined 354 different participants all confirmed that people who engaged in active video games (or AVGs) had an increased oxygen consumption, heart rates, and energy expenditure than their counterparts who played conventional video games. While this means that people who use the Kinect experience something similar to moderate physical activity rather than hard-core exercise, it certainly is in the right direction towards living a healthier lifestyle.
While using a controller probably isn't going away for a very long time (especially since some types of games still require a more refined input method) controller-free gaming has added benefits for users. First, there's less wear and tear on the system. Constant and continuous playing can wreak havoc on controllers, which requires them to be replaced. Next, there's also less chance of injuring the thumbs or hands. Nintendinitis (gamer's grip) is an actual medical condition. It is a type of repetitive strain injury, and can bring long-term damage to the hands and joints when players develop tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. While Kinect-related injuries have been reported, most are accidental and can be prevented with proper use.
Another benefit to not using controllers is that some people with disabilities can also join in the fun. Several games can be played by people who are in wheelchairs, and Microsoft plans to add more titles and find more ways so everyone can join in the fun. Voice controls also allow disabled people to control the device from wherever they may be in the room, and many researchers and doctors have been using the Kinect to help kids with autism, patients undergoing rehabilitation for physical injuries, and even doctors in the operating room.
Interactive and Fun Gaming Experience
Using the Kinect gives players a more fun and interactive gaming experience. In fact, one of the main reasons Microsoft developed the Kinect was so more and more players could enjoy playing video games, instead of its base of hardcore thumb jockeys. In the last few decades, gamers have been using controllers and other traditional input devices to control characters and the action on the screen. The Kinect allows players to be part of the action, not just bystanders. People use their bodies to control characters on the screen, instead of merely executing a series of button presses. That means more people can join in the game, not just the dedicated button-mashers. This makes it a fun activity where almost anyone can participate.
How to Buy a Kinect for Xbox on eBay
If you've decided to purchase a Kinect for the Xbox 360, then you should consider looking through listings on eBay. Buying on eBay offers the convenience of online shopping and best of all, with thousands of sellers, you'll have a better chance of scoring a good deal than from conventional sellers.
Searching for an Xbox 360 with Kinect on eBay
Finding a Kinect bundle on eBay is simple. Just use the search box (or Advanced Search) by entering pertinent key terms for the item or items you're looking for, such as "Kinect sensor" or "Kinect with games". You can also find seller listings for Kinect under different categories, like Video Games & Consoles and Video Game Accessories..
Giving the Xbox 360 with Kinect as a Gift
An Xbox 360 with Kinect can make a great gift for just about anyone, whether it's a child, husband, or even for elderly parents who want to do get more active. If you want to give the Xbox 360 with Kinect as a gift, you can purchase an eBay Gift Card for that special someone. You can also purchase the Xbox 360 with Kinect with other people. Just use the Group Gifts function on the website to ask for contributions from other people and fund the full amount of the gift.
The Kinect is an add-on accessory for the Xbox 360 that allows players to manipulate characters and the gaming action through body movement and voice, captured by a special device. The device debuted in November 2010 as a smashing success, selling millions of units worldwide. The device itself is simple, consisting of a slim black box with an RGB camera, depth sensor, multi-array microphone, and software that allows for facial and voice recognition. The Kinect and the Xbox 360 work together to capture a player's motions and translate it into gameplay.
The camera, depth sensor, and microphone can detect the player's body, voice, and the space he or she is located in and send the data to the Xbox. The Xbox (and the Kinect software) then processes the data into action on the screen. The Kinect has many benefits to players, namely, it promotes physical activity, allows for controller-free gaming, and creates an enjoyable gaming experience. Many people prefer to purchase Xbox 360 with Kinect bundles online, and those considering making a purchase soon should turn to eBay for some of the best prices and largest variety of bundles on the Internet.