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Xbox One: What Is Life Without Kinect?

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Many uncertainties in the gaming community have yet to be settled over the new Kinect for the Xbox One: “Is it really watching me?” “Is it really worth my money?” “Is the functionality better than it’s predecessor?” My hope is to settle some of these anxieties towards Microsoft’s skeptical all-seeing eye.

The release of next-gen consoles was swift, but for most, quite painful as the prices of these monster gaming systems soared above reasonable prices. As a student currently running off of money from my summer job, there was no possible way for me to purchase the highly coveted consoles on day one. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks back that the thought of purchasing one even crossed my mind, but after thinking it through, there was no going back. I splurged and bought the Xbox One, an astounding $499.99 (tax excluded). Realizing that I could have bought the PS4, an astounding gaming system, for $100 cheaper, many might ask why I wasn’t quick to snatch that deal. There are two reasons: 1. I’m an Xbox fan boy at heart—I can’t help it 2. I was really interested to see what the new Kinect had in store.

Setting up the Xbox One, the first thing that hit me was how fast all of it was done. I expected facial recognition setup to be a multi-step process of standing in different corners of the room facing the cameras at different angles. I was gratefully surprised to find out it was simply a matter of raising my hand and agreeing that the person it was recognizing was truly me. Within seconds the Kinect had all the facial data it needed. Now, every time I power on the Xbox One using the simple command “Xbox On!” within 10 seconds I’m greeted with a heart-warming message from my Kinect sensor signing me in. I don’t care if the NSA’s watching, that is so cool.

Now some of you are probably quite skeptical about the whole Kinect sensor always watching and listening despite Microsoft’s confirmation that they are not indeed monitoring or recording personal data taken from the sensor. However, the possibility of NSA using the Kinect for observation is very likely. Regardless, it is my personal belief that the NSA is only there to keep watch for dangerous or suspicious activity. So unless you are doing something illegal in your living room, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.

As for voice commands, I love them. In fact, I can’t even imagine life without them. There is some chance to bring up an easy guide to all commands,  thing beautiful about saying “Xbox, go to Forza Motorsport 5″ and having it actually go there. However, not all of the command options work to their full potential. Whenever I am in a room with more than one person, there is bound to be talking, and talking clutters the soundscape of the Kinect. Whenever there is background noise I often find myself having to repeat commands with greater volume and repetition than what might feel comfortable. Another problem with the commands is that not all of them are actually useful. The only commands I regularly find myself using are the “Xbox go to…”, “Xbox Select”, and “Xbox Snap” commands. These are all relatively smooth and super convenient. Rather than having to exit to my home, go to my applications, and select my next game I can simply tell my Xbox where I want to go.  I do like how Microsoft gives you the ability to bring up a command guide at any time by simply saying “Xbox”,  but most of the others commands just feel clunky, and unnecessary. Video commands for starting and stopping are awesome, but I haven’t yet had the opportunity to test TV commands due to the Xbox One not providing satellite cable compatibility. Regardless, the Kinect voice commands are amazing, and are essential in completing the Xbox One. Thanks Microsoft.

A list of the many voice commands available on the Xbox One

Above: A list of the many voice commands available on the Xbox One

I would write things about the gesture recognition of Kinect, but in all honesty, it sucks. Some of them are cute, like the grabbing both sides of the screen to go back home, but half of the time they don’t work and users are left with the frustration of waving their hands around for nothing.  Do yourself a favor and don’t bother.

As a whole, the Kinect is a great function. There are many kinks here and there, and by no means is it perfect, but it still is an amazing addition to the Xbox One. Actually, what am I saying, the Xbox One wouldn’t even be worth the extra $100 if it wasn’t for the Kinect. It is an amazing breakthrough in entertainment technology, and although it still has not completely unlocked its full potential, is my favorite addition to the next-gen consoles. My final verdict, do yourself a favor, and even if you aren’t an Xbox kind of gamer, try the Kinect sometime. You just might really really really enjoy it.


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