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Kinect’s Problem: Creating Expensive Solutions For Non-Existent Problems

Recently rumours were circulating that the new Kinect (Kinect 2.0) was a huge cost factor in developing the Xbox One (I will be calling it the One throughout this post). Now this wouldn’t be such a big deal if it was creating solutions to problems in how we interact with our consoles (this is what the blog post is going to be about). It is a no brainer that, on paper, the PS4 is a more powerful console than the One. The fact that the PS4 has more and better RAM than the One (8GB GDDR5, which 7 of it is useable for games, compared to 8GB DDR3 which 5 of it is useable for games) puts into question is the Kinect really worth the price for lower specs and $100 more. Microsoft, at Comic-Com, announced new features for the Kinect that are being called “base level features any developer can use”. It is cool we know more about the Kinect but it also highlights that Microsoft’s direction with the Kinect is less about doing something new but about solving non-existent problems.

Navigation: The Kinect (both versions) advertised that you can navigate the One with your hands. It is cool except this is non-existent problem. We have been navigating menu screens for years with ease. The way menus have been made is to make the user easy to understand where everything is and navigate it with very little problems. The Kinect seems to advertise itself (in this regard) as more of a novel experience as you are not going to start up the One without a controller.

Profile settings: This one is fairly interesting. The Kinect will be able to recognise you and load your certain profile (i.e. if your friend likes inverted controls and you don’t it can change it on the fly when you pass the controller over). If we ignore the fact that the friend would have to set up his preferences (like setting up a profile) it is a quick way to swap profile settings. The biggest problem is, again, it is solving a non-existent problem. We have had profile settings since this last generation started. You just had to log in. This could be streamlined at a far lower cost to the consumer by removing the Kinect altogether. One button could do this, for example the PlayStation button on the PS3 is used to do several things. I think the profile switching, all be it cool once it has been set up, is an expensive solution to a non-existent problem when you factor in the cost and specs of the system because of the inclusion of the Kinect

Reading heart rates: This one may be just a personal thing as I know some people get really into gaming (I thought I was up their writing blogs and reviews like this but I may be wrong) but I can safely say that no game has made my heart rate race or given me an adrenaline boost while I play it. The reason being I am not in any sort of threat so I can’t see how this will be used in any game I play except for one genre which is fitness games. Now I am not a fitness fanatic but I do run a lot. I enjoy doing circuits and pushing myself to do big runs every day. That being said I can safely say fitness games on consoles are a waste of time and money. This isn’t just an issue with the Kinect as the Move and Wii U has the same issue.

Voice commands: This is an interesting and not entirely a bad point (bringing it up out of fairness) but they do not require the Kinect. A cheap microphone that is good enough to pick up the sound in the room is sufficient for voice commands. What makes voice commands good is the software behind the microphone. Now Microsoft seems to have quite a comprehensive voice command system but couldn’t this system be applied to a headset? It can but I do agree with them putting it into the Kinect (especially when it is compulsory addition to the One)

Right direction: The newly announced face scanning thing (makes a 3D model of your face) is a step in the right direction for the Kinect. I feel it gives a real reason for adding the expense to the system. However, I am not getting whole to excited yet as the past Kinect promo adverts advertised a similar system with a skateboard which never made it into the final product. Another problem I have with it is would it really be used within a game. Games have become very cinematic in nature this last generation. Would I want my face with little to no emotion in a cinematic cut scene? It would look out of place. Now it could be used in MMOs and other less storytelling driven gameplay but isn’t this a gimmick in itself. I mean, as gamers, we tend to live out a fantasy which is why human looking MMOs tend to not have the appeal that an elf MMO has. The big question is if it isn’t used to affect gameplay then what is the point?

To conclude the Kinect 2.0 doesn’t really change anything. It is an expensive device/choice especially considering the One is, on paper, a weaker device in terms of specs but it costs $100 more expensive than its’ closet rival. Navigation, profile settings and other things like that can be done already with very little problems. It brings me back to my title of “creating expensive solutions for non-existent problems” as these features are not a game changer. The Kinect is offering a more expensive way to do it. It is very similar to the voice commands thing. Voice commands have been in gaming for quite some time now. I remember playing Socom 3 on the PS2 with voice commands. No expensive Kinect style thing was needed. All that was needed was a cheap microphone. The software did all the work. Now Microsoft are moving in the right direction with the face modelling thing but is there much practical impact this will have in the actual games? Is it worth the price and reducing the One’s own specs to make the thing affordable? That is up to personal opinion and debate.

I will leave you (the reader) with a little comparison to another next generation system that equally has an issue with creating an expensive solution for non-existent problems. Imagine the menu screen being on a different more expensive controller so the game can continue running while you do menu stuff on the other screen, even though developers have gotten around the need for another screen with inventory menus that do not stop the game. The screen has pushed up the price of the system.

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Nicaragua1550d ago

Good blog and i totally agree.

Kinect does some cool stuff, not very practical but definitely cool. My issue is that Microsoft are trying to convince us that its not just cool, its NEEDED.

This is the solution to those problems that have been gnawing away at us for all those years - except they haven't, and in reality the voice controlled stuff and hand swipey stuff is probably going to end up being a bigger ball-ache than just pushing a button.

I remember early this gen playing Endwar with voice commands on PS3. It worked seamlessly with my bluetooth mic but i gave up on it just because it was a chore to play - constantly saying the same things to the TV, I hear similar things about Mass Effect 3 on the 360.

They need to make it cheaper and make it invisible as part of the system package, because now it just seems unnecessary and because of that it makes the X1 bad value for money.

malokevi1548d ago

The Problem: Trying to set yourself apart from the competition.

The solution: Xbox One.

Kinect is an integral part of the system. Its not a forced peripheral. Its a component.

Saints941548d ago

Wasn't DRM "built around the system" look what happened to that.

Godmars2901550d ago (Edited 1550d ago )

The problem with Kinect is that it was never really targeted at gamers. Its target was almost always the general consumer and casual gamer. People who wouldn't know or care about things being fixed which didn't need to be.

It was something which was dreamed up in answer to the Wiimote, will likely most be used as an aid for advertising, and with the release of the XB1 will be something that MS, not gamers or consumers, will see as absolutely needed.

GameCents1549d ago

Problem? Solutions? Since when did features become solutions to problems?
Convenience is not meant to be a solution, but rather an easier/neater way to do something.

Nobody said it was a hassle or problem having to change controller settings according to who is playing, but it sure is a nice feature that Kinect does that for you.
Did people complain about having to use a controller to turn on their consoles? Nope, but telling your Xbox to turn on and play music without needing to sift through menus is a welcomed option.

You want problems? Problem: inability to track fingers. Solution: kinect 2 now tracks individual fingers.
Problem: Inability to track more than 2 people. Solution: kinect 2 can track 6.
Problem: Lag/latency. Solution: kinect 2 has reduced lag to a noteable degree.
Problem: space
Solution: kinect 2 can now see a person standing or sitting just a meter away.
Problem: lighting
Solution: Kinect 2 now has infrared mode and can see you in a completely dark room.

Your blog just comes off biased and riddled with agenda. You claim Kinect 2 is a device that solves alot of non-problems while ignoring the many real problems this new iteration overcomes.
You list features as solutions because you claim they are non game changers but some of us disagree. I know I do.

We have not seen the extent or quality of the face on character mapping so I'll reserve excitement (and judgement in your case) until I see the final product. Fortunately Microsoft are not limited by your inability to see this feature working well.

I don't know how long you've been at this, but next time, try not be so repetitive. At one point it just seemed like you were going around in circles talking about solutions to non problems. Read your blog again and you'll see what I mean.

In conclusion, your bias got the better of you and you wrote a nonsensical blog that was too driven by your desire to paint kinect as a solution to non problems.

iamnsuperman1549d ago (Edited 1549d ago )

"You want problems? Problem: inability to track fingers. Solution: kinect 2 now tracks individual fingers.
Problem: Inability to track more than 2 people. Solution: kinect 2 can track 6.
Problem: Lag/latency. Solution: kinect 2 has reduced lag to a noteable degree.
Problem: space
Solution: kinect 2 can now see a person standing or sitting just a meter away.
Problem: lighting
Solution: Kinect 2 now has infrared mode and can see you in a completely dark room. "

You have missed the point of the blog entirely here. While Kinect 2 is a big improvement over the first my point is the kinect in general is an expensive solution for non existent problems. That is the point. The list you have made is why the Kinect 2 is better than the one (entirely different blog)

I did mention they had made a step in the right direction

I feel your bias got the better of you with this comment (see what I did there :P) as the stuff you wrote is irrelevant to the blog's point. If I was writing a blog about how the Kinect 2 shapes up to the Kinect 1 then your points are valid as it is a big improvement but this isn't what this blog is about

ATWILL1549d ago

I think the point is trying to provide something different that you can't find somewhere else. It would be nice for it to be cheaper and you made some good arguments but I don't see it as non-existent problems. It's like you're saying, phones should stay with buttons and not use touch screen cause a button can get you where you need to go. Trying something new and unique is a good thing to me. Adding it to the console will push developers to support it which is smart. I would hate to spend money on it and not have it supported like PS Eye and Move. You know that's true. Plus you have all the casual/family games that can help create a larger install base. Just cause a "hardcore" gamer does not value a certain type of game does not mean others won't. Still price is the real issue here and I concede that it should be cheaper.
Question: Do you care that the Wii U is weaker and has a tablet? It's a console that requires multiple controller purchases to play its games. I guess they could have stuck with just the pro controller too.

iamnsuperman1549d ago (Edited 1549d ago )


I can see your point but the mobile phone is a bad example as the touch screen in a phone offers a lot more functionality than "solving" non-existent problems. The Kinect doesn't actually do this though (it does in some small regard which I mentioned) I understand why they have it included in the box otherwise no-one will by it (going to happen with the Move) but I don't think the thing justifies reducing the specs of the console and increasing the price. It is too much of a burden on the One

I do care (and a lot of others do care because of lack of sales) that the Wii U is a weaker console with a weak tablet controller. It could have been so much more. I (personally) feel the Wii U was released too early as cost of making tablets are still very high which limited Nintendo's capabilities

GameCents1549d ago

Okay, lets stay relevant to the topic. What exactly defines a solution by your understanding? I wanna be able to understand why exactly you see features and options as being solutions.

Is the share button on the ds4 a solution? What was the problem?
Is the touch pad a solution? Again, problem?
How about that light? Is that a solution too? Was there a problem?
Are new additions and options to current gen controllers all solutions to some or other problem or are those just limited to kinect?

Nicaragua1549d ago

None of those things you listed are problems, they are just improvements on the original kinect which are required since the original was not very useful for gaming purposes.

GameCents1549d ago

None of the things I listed were problems but the features this guy listed were solutions?

My stance remains. This blog is nothing but an excuse to bag on yet another MS product. K2 brings so many improvements and features and this guy decides to downgrade it all by calling them solutions to problems.

Darrius Cole1549d ago

Actually I, too, think your bias got the better of you in your response. It's not hard to see that Iamnsuperman, (whom I will refer to as Supe or Supes), meant that Kinect does offer much to help us interact with our games that we didn't already have.

If you want to frame the discussion as a question of problems and solutions, you also need to have a goal or purpose. I assume that Supes' underlying purpose is for a gaming feature is that it helps the gamer interact with his game or fellow gamers in a way that is better than what the gamer already had. .(Better being defined as easier or commonly believed to be more enjoyable. Assuming is always somewhat risky, but I think its a safe and reasonable assumption since this site is dedicated to gaming. Supes can correct me if I am reading him incorrectly.

Viewed and judged against that purpose Supes is much more right than wrong. His points about navigation, profile management, and voice commands are correct. Having a Kinect doesn't allow us anything that we can't already do as good or better with a controller and a mic. His other point about reading heart rates is largely correct as well. I actually believe that it will be proven fully correct, but I have to differ by saying that it is too early to call that belief a conclusion that no one will use heart-rate reading beneficially in a hard-core game.

Your (GameCents) problem and solutions on the other hand are not wrtiten from the point of view of helping the gamer experience the game. For instance, your point about Kinect 1.0 not being able to track fingers and Kinect 2.0 being able fingers is irrelevant unless you can point to some kick-ass game that not only relies on finger tracking, but uses that finger tracking to interface with the game better than what we can already do with a controller.

Lastly, but actually most importantly Godmars was exactly correct. When the consideration / goal is "how will Kinect help the gamer play games," Kinect is clearly not worth the cost. When the consideration / goal is "how will Kinect help Microsoft," then Kinect makes all the sense in the world.

fOrlOnhOpe571549d ago

Well now that MS has poured so much resources ie research time and money - into Kinect, they can only prove its gaming worth by producing and DEMONSTRATING games and gameplay applicable to the device.
Failing that, it just becomes a channel-changing gimmick.I wouldn't knock anyone buying it as, like everything else, it's about personal choice.

Nicaragua1549d ago

But its not about choice - you cannot choose not to have Kinect, you cannot choose to buy a cheaper Xbox without Kinect.

Its forced on you and its forced on you for features which I think are useless gimmicks like the channel changing you mention.

fOrlOnhOpe571549d ago

I think you misunderstood what I meant about choice. I know Kinect is an integral part of the xbone - the choice I meant was to buy the console or not.
Im not a fan of MS, their console or business practices - buts thats me and my choices.

loulou1549d ago

i suppose, that we should be thankful that the ridiculous anti-anything microsoft blogs. that get wrote on here by people that would not own their products if they were given to them, are just wastes of bandwidth and nothing else.

i cant imagine where we would be if them same fanboys got their way, and only good ol uncle sony were ruling things. check out a few links, and imagine what would happen if sony was supreme and without competition..

and what happened with their tvs is in an industry where they are already getting smashed to bits by samsung. yes probably slightly off topic i know

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