This video recently made the rounds on every popular tech blog known to man. It doesn't paint a very impressive picture of motion technology. The public — and Ellen DeGeneres — have decided that the Kinect is this year's high-tech novelty item. It's the new Furby or Tickle Me Elmo.
Much like political-campaign strategies, advertising can be an effective method to sway the masses. A lot of people bought into the notion that Microsoft's device would herald the arrival of Minority Report-style user interfaces because of the aggressive advertising.
Though I recognize the weight of such a revolution in technology, Kinect indicates a growing divide within the consumer-electronics world between those who have information and those who don't. (I can already hear mom yelling at me to make her new Xbox stop flashing 12 a.m.)
This holiday represents a reckoning for a lot of new high-end consumer-level items. Will people happily trample over their fellow man for a 3D television? Do non-gamers want to pretend they are in a futuristic Tom Cruise movie? We won't know until the dust settles on Christmas' sale figures, and we can tally up October, November, and December.
As a product-buying public, we seem to have some form of Wag the Dog syndrome. Consumers no longer leverage their spending habits to control what companies do. Instead, they let spin doctors and hucksters create demand by bombarding them with promotional material.
In the end, the consumer always gets the final say. But when the PlayStation Moves and the Microsoft Kinects of today are collecting dust in the closets of tomorrow due to lack of support, lack of inspired software, or the arrival of the next big thing, what's the next step? It's hard to say, but one thing is clear: Sony and Microsoft aren't against spinning a failure into a win. Sony has said that they've been "selling" millions of their motion-control devices, but some reports indicate these numbers are reflective of the total number shipped, not the total number sold. Recently, market analyst Michael Pachter noted sluggish sales in the States.
In my more optimistic moments, I like to think that people like our friend Gel (in the first video) outnumber the people like the woman in the Home Shopping Network video. But I'm not sure that's true. As it stands, these sweat-inducing curios don't seem to have steady ground under them. So, this is the question: How far can aggressive advertising push these devices? Can they become bona fide successes like the Nintendo Wii?
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