Kinect for Xbox 360: Everything you need to know

Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360 is now official. However while the concept of Kinect, previously called Project Natal, has been around for over a year now, many of the details and features are only just being discovered following the company's launch event at E3.

Here is everything you need to know about the new accessory for the Xbox 360 console, from the games that will be available from launch to how it works, to what you can expect in the future.

Who, What, Why, Where

What's the new name?

It was Project Natal, now it's called Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360. We presume it's got something to do with all that kinetic energy you'll be using up playing it, although Microsoft haven't stayed any reason publically over why it is called what it is.

Why did they change the name?

Turns out every Microsoft project gets a codename internally, and those codenames are always cities from around the world. Natal is a city in Brazil and South Africa. Yeah we can't see the next Xbox 360 being called Burnley either.

When is Kinect available?

In the US you'll be able to embrace the love from 4 November. In the UK, Microsoft hasn't as yet set a date, however expect it to be shortly afterwards as long as the American's don't snap it up and take all the stock. Microsoft has told us however that they are gunning for a pre-Christmas launch in good old Blighty.

How much will Kinect cost?

Microsoft has confirmed that the US price will be $149. They haven't set a UK price yet however .

Hardware

What is it?

It's voodoo. No seriously, it's a bank of cameras within a single device that once plugged into your Xbox 360 games console will visually track a staggering 48 skeletal points of the human body, meaning that it can sense motion down to the level of individual finger movements.

If that wasn't enough a microphone will give you the ability to give vocal commands to your Xbox just like you were Jean Luc Picard on the USS Enterprise.

Will I need to own an Xbox 360?

Yes, Kinect will only work with the Xbox 360. But don't panic if you've got an old model, it will work with all units on the market.

How does it work?

Those cameras track your movements if you stand in front of it and then relay those movements to the game so you can interact with it. That means you become the controller.

Does it only work with Xbox 360?

Yes. If you want motion tracking games on the PS3 you need to buy the PlayStation Move. If you want similar action on the Nintendo Wii, buy a Wii. However this is the only accessory on the market that doesn't require you to hold something in your hand.

Will I need a big lounge to play with Kinect?

In all the demos we've played so far you will need a defined gaming space to play in - time to get rid of the coffee table. Talking to various demo dudes at E3 2010, that means a space roughly 1m square.

Is Kinect just about the camera?

No. As we've said already, you'll get voice control as well with you being able to shout commands at your console. This particularly comes in handy when it comes to watching videos on your console. Xbox pause or Xbox play are two phrases you should get used to saying.

Can I talk to it?

While you can shout commands at it as if it's your toast boy, you can't strike up a conversation. Sorry it won't stand in as your girlfriend.

Will I feel like I am tom cruise in Minority Report?

Yes, although thankfully you won't have to wear the gloves, feel guilty that you had your son kidnapped at a crowded swimming pool, or even get your eyeballs replaced because of it. You will however be grinning like a Cheshire cat when you lure unsuspecting victims (we mean keen gamers) back to your house to play with your new toy.

What are the specs?

Sensor
Colour and depth-sensing lenses
Voice microphone array
Tilt motor for sensor adjustment
Fully compatible with existing Xbox 360 consoles

Field of View
Horizontal field of view: 57 degrees
Vertical field of view: 43 degrees
Physical tilt range: ± 27 degrees
Depth sensor range: 1.2m - 3.5m

Data Streams
320x240 16-bit depth @ 30 frames/sec
640x480 32-bit colour@ 30 frames/sec
16-bit audio @ 16 kHz

Skeletal Tracking System
Tracks up to 6 people, including 2 active players
Tracks 20 joints per active player
Ability to map active players to LIVE Avatars

Audio System
LIVE party chat and in-game voice chat (requires Xbox LIVE Gold Membership)
Echo cancellation system enhances voice input
Speech recognition in multiple
This information is based on specifications supplied by manufacturers and should be used for guidance only.

Games for Kinect for Xbox 360

What games are available for Kinect for Xbox 360?

The list is growing by the day, but games that we already know of include:

Kinectimals (Frontier Studio, Microsoft Game Studios) - A game where you get to stroke and play with a range of friendly cats

Your Shape: Fitness Evolved (Ubisoft) - A fitness game that plans to get you in to shape

Kinect Joy Ride (Big Park, Microsoft Game Studios) - Car racing with an imaginary wheel.

Kinect Sports (Rare, Microsoft Game Studios) - Like Wii Sports, this brings soccer, beach volleyball, bowling, table tennis, track and field, and boxing to the console. 

Kinect Adventures (Microsoft Game Studios) - White water rafting and dive, duck, dodge, and diving your way out of trouble

Dance Central (MTV Games) - Dance game with hundreds of moves to learn and plenty of songs to dance against

EA SPORTS Active 2 (EA SPORTS) - Exercise game that takes a more fun approach to getting fit.

DECA SPORTS FREEDOM (Hudson Entertainment) - Another sports title

Dance Masters (Konami) - Dancing from the creators of most of the dance games you've either heard of or played.

Adrenalin Misfits (Konami) - Boarding game with seven fantasy worlds with various environments.

Zumba Fitness (Majesco) - Yet another fitness title. Yes you really will get fit with Kinect.

Sonic Free Riders (SEGA) - Fast-paced boarding game 

The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout (THQ) - Yet another fitness title.

Motion Sports  (Ubisoft) - And yet there is more exercise involved

Game Party: In Motion (Warner Bros. Interactive) - Selection of party games like Wii Play

Forza Motorsport - Car racing game that lets you look at the cars like you've never done before (aside from in a showroom).

Child of Eden (Ubisoft) - Trippy, Rez-esque game that will send you mad

Yoostar2 (Blitz Games Studios) - Movie karaoke video game that brings the magic and fun of Hollywood to your living room

Get Fit With Mel B (Black Bean Games) - You'll never believe this when we say it's yet another fitness game.

Kinect Star Wars (Lucas Arts) - Use the force Luke... You're chance to become the Star Wars Kid.

When can I buy those games?

A big chunk of them will be available for launch however some, like the Star Wars title won't be hitting shops until some time in 2011.

Will all games work with Kinect?

Nope. You won't be able to just fire up an update for Gears of War when Kinect becomes available like you will for the PlayStation Move. Games will have to be made specifically for the new technology.

Will all games expect me to be fit and able?

Not all games require jumping around, however most do. Kinect Sports would be impossible to play with out some effort on your part for example.

Are all developers making games for Kinect?

Most have signed up. So far that list includes Microsoft Games Studios (of course), Ubisoft, EA, Konami, SEGA, Lucas Arts, MTV Games and a handful of smaller publishers.

Is it just me, or can my whole family play?

Kinect supports up to two people on the screen at once all from the one device.

Will I be able to play others around the world too?

Of course you will. The accessory taps into Microsoft's Xbox Live service. You'll even be able to video call them as well.

Does it do more than just games?


Yep. You can do video calling with others via a Kinect to Kinect connection called Video Kinect. There will also be support coming for a Kinect to Windows Live Messenger conversations as well so you can chat to someone at work.

Can I do anything else with it?

Yes. You can use your new gadget to control video play back of movies. "Xbox play video" for example is something that you should practice now so you'll be ready come November.

Can I talk to people on other devices?

Aside from talking to other Kinect for Xbox 360 users, and Windows Messenger users there is no current plans to bring in other third party apps like Skype or Apple's FaceTime for the iPhone 4.

First Impressions

Our time was brief and the console accessory isn't out until November, however we are sold. We love it. Yes you could claim we've been swayed by the excitement and hype of E3 already, but this really is a magical device that made us smile.

While the technology is original, the concept isn't entirely. Thanks to Nintendo we've been bowling in our living rooms for some time, but where Microsoft has managed to succeed here is by taking that experience and increasing it. Ditching the controller is really liberating and is only likely to help open up the genre of interactive gaming, in the truest sense, in your living room.

With that in mind, it is fair to say that if you think the idea of the Wii with its balance board and Wii Remotes is silly, Microsoft's Kinect is unlikely to change that belief. This isn't in any shape or form lazy gaming.

You can check out our full hands on (literally) Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360 - First Look review for more details.

Competition

How does it compare to the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation Move?

Sony has been quite open it its criticism of Microsoft and Kinect but rather than take this as saying that one system is better than the other, it's really more of a highlight as to the different market that the two companies are hoping to corner, for better or for worse. Kinect seems more focused on the fun, family market while Move is aimed at the more hardcore gamers. The precision accuracy and exact control of the latter lends itself to in-depth shooters and action games whereas the magic of the no-hands Microsoft Kinect suits multiplay amusement and a thorough thrill of enjoyment. How they cope with the same third party title, though, might be the real test to wait for. Oh and as for the Wii? Unless you like family friendly titles like Zelda and Kirby, it no longer in the same league.

For a greater breakdown check out Microsoft Kinect vs PlayStation Move vs Nintendo Wii.

For more Kinect for Xbox 360 coverage and all the latest on the new motion controller from Microsoft, check out our Microsoft Kinect dedicated homepage.