When Microsoft unveiled ‘Kinect’ – then known as Project Natal – on their E3 keynote conference last year, heads turned, looks of amazement met across the conference center – or at least I imagine they did — ‘Minority Report’ fans cried and, yes, some jaws even dropped.

All these reactions were a direct response not so much to the applied tech-demos that the audience was shown that day, but to the potential the technology represented all by itself. The imaginations of game-and-tech enthusiasts all over the world took instant flight and, for a whole year, lots of us would dream of ways in which Microsoft’s futuristic device could give birth to a new breed of enhanced interactive experiences – we only needed them to dream that same dream.

That whole year has come to pass and today, after a conference that felt like nothing more than an extended version of last year’s Project Natal unveiling, Microsoft has – evidently — failed to deliver.

Kinect

‘Ricochet’ morphed into ‘Kinect Sports’ and ‘Kinect Adventures’. Milo – game designer Peter Molyneux’s creepy, interactive boy – came back in the form of a pet-tiger for ‘Kinectimals’. Hand-gesture-control for the Xbox Dashboard was “pimped” with the mind-blowing addition of a pointer. Both ‘Your Shape’ and ‘Dance Central’ – as impressively precise as they proved to be – were nothing but already expected apps. And last, but not least, the ‘Burnout’ integration demo transformed into the ‘Joyride’ integration demo.

Surely, Microsoft had an ace up its sleeve, right? At least it seemed that way when they first introduced the live video-conference application ‘Video Kinect.’ The possibilities that the marriage of video-chat technology with an advanced augmented-reality device implied were, probably, in the minds of many. Some of us were hoping to see those cute twins that demoed the application work in team to solve a puzzle by manipulating 3D objects on the same screen – or at least play checkers on some sort of translucent game-board. But, no, they watched the trailer for ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ – yeah, even the opportunity to reveal some incredible, new film was missed.

So, after a keynote conference that made its viewers feel in a state of perpetual déjà-vu; confirmed that Microsoft was just dying to scream ‘Wii can do it too!’ And, more disappointingly, failed to prove the hopes of many right, only one question remains: Is the dream over?

While the aftertaste of Microsoft’s presentation would most likely lead anyone to believe so, there are still some glimmers of that hope for innovation that was sparked at last year’s E3. Turn 10’s head-tracking demo for Forza 3 was definitely interesting. So was Q Entertainment’s ‘Child of Eden’ presentation.

The technology is undoubtedly there, just waiting to be truly tapped. 3D effects through head-tracking can be achieved; so can the successful integration of motion-control and regular-control – just imagine using your head to peek out of cover instead of a button. And what about those video-chats enhanced by augmented reality? Of course!

 ‘Kinect’ just needs to find its way into the hands of the right developers – here’s to hoping it does.


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