Xbox 360 Kinect

Posted by Ub3rG33k on Nov 10, 2010 in Microsoft, Tech, XBOX 360

I’ve been interested in the Kinect ever since it was announced at the 2009 E3 show, under the name of Project Natal.

I was able to pre-order back in September, so me being the early adopter I am, ordered it straight away.

Well todays the day, and it’s finally release day for the Kinect, and I have to say I’ve pleasantly surprised. I’ll be perfectly honest with you, I was extremely dubious of how good this would be, as y previous experience with any camera controlled titles, have been a bit rubbish to be honest. The most recent one I played was You’re In the Movies, and to be honest, it was utter rubbish.

First thing I have to say about it, is I didn’t realise just how big it is, it’s around the length of the next Xbox 360S.

Next thing I notices were all the cables in the box, there were loads. These however won’t be needed if you have one of the newer 360S console. If you don’t, don’t worry, you have a mass of cables to power the kinect, and extend the USB sockets of the standard 360.

So how was it…well let me tell you, pretty bloody good !

Once I’d updated the software for the Kinect, the Kinect Video and Kinect Adventures, we were good to go.

First of all you active the Kinect by waving at it, once acknowledged it fires up the kinect dashboard, which is different to the normal Xbox dashboard. I then started with setting up a Kinect ID, this essentially joins your Kinect ID with your profile. As part of the setup, the kinect has you standing in various poses, in different locations in your room. Once complete it has your height, build and face in stored against your profile. This is used later for jumping in and out of games.

The next step was the Kinect tuning. It ran through evening from lighting, to sending a test signal to each speaker to measure the background noise.

Next was the the voice control. I was shocked how good this was. Basically you say “Xbox….”, and a bar pops up at the bottom with all available controls, or you can say what you see on the screen. So basically if you want to watch the Sky Player, you simply say…”Xbox..Sky”. I tried this out with the Last.fm app, and was surprised it heard me over my Happy Hardcore station…but it heard the commands fine. I even tried a series of stupid accents, and it still understood me.

Finally I tried was the Kinect video. This is basically video calling on the Xbox, but with the added advantage of being able to video call your MSN contacts. Now this had to be one of the coolest features of the Kinect. If you start a video call, the Kinect tracks your face, so if you walk up and down the room, the motorised camera will follow and keep focused on you. I though this was cool, but not as cool as when I sat down on the sofa next to C, the camera panned out to focus on both of us !

So time for Kinect Adventures. As expected, this is essentially a tech demo, basically the Wii Sports for Kinect. There are only a 5 mini game, but they cover the full features of the controller.

First of all, Rallyball is a sort of handball on speed. You hit a ball at a target, while deflecting balls that are coming at you. You can use your hands, legs and head, so in that sense it truly utilizes the Kinect’s potential. But only in a limited way.

Reflex Ridge puts your avatar on a platform, where you need to react to avoid obstacles. You will duck, jump and dodge your way through a gauntlet to reach the finish line.

Space Pop is a gravity-defying game that puts you in a small room filled with bubbles that you need to hit to pop. The game uses depth in an interesting way.

River Rush is similar to Reflex Ridge, but you have more control. As you cruise down a series of rapids in a raft, you move left and right to steer, and jump to elevate your transportation while collecting stars along the way.

Finally, 20,000 Leaks is perhaps the simplest game of the bunch. Cracks appear in the glass wall that is holding back the ocean, and you need to plug them with your body.

Initially I played the games solo, but later C came to join me, the kinect automatically recognised her from the Kinect ID we had set up, and added her straight into the game.

Finally, there are a lot of discussions going on about space and lighting for the Kinect. I personally had about 1.5 – 2 metres of space in front of me, and the Kinect seemed very happy with this. As for the lighting, once I’d created my Kinect ID, I was able to switch off the main light, and just use my smaller side light. This picked up without issue.

All in all, a very good device, and can’t recommend one enough. At this moment in time, I’ll be more inclined to use the Kinect over the Playstation move, as I just think it works a little better, the only downside is I think the games will be limited to Wii type games.

As always, unboxing photos below.

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How to hide items on your Facebook news feed

Posted by Ub3rG33k on Feb 16, 2010 in Tech

Ok, just a quick blog post, but some people may find this useful . If you are like me and have a number of friends of facebook that play a lot of the facebook apps such as Farmville, Mafia Wars, Cafe World, etc and tend to hit the publish button every time they fire up the game, or what seems like every 30 seconds, your Facebook news feed, like mine can get a little crowded.

You could un-friend them, but that’s not very friendly, and if they enjoy playing the games, and I’m sure they have other friends that may finds the post of interest (eg, if they are playing the same game), but for me, it just makes my News Feed unreadable.

The solution is simpler than you think !,  when you see one of the offending posts, just mouse over the top right hand corner, and click the hide button. This will hide this post, and give you the option to hide notifications from just this app, or from this user. Hiding the app, will hide all posts from this application.

I spent 5 minutes running through my news feed, hiding all the apps, and now my feed just has relevant information to me, it’s like the good old days of Facebook again.

edit : Just has a message from Chris, and apparently if you just use Lite version of Facebook, you don’t get any apps showing.

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You’re In The Movies

Posted by Ub3rG33k on Jan 4, 2009 in XBOX 360

Well, after drinking a few beers last night, we decided we were ready to play “You’re In The Movies”. The game fires up, and you have some little actionman type dude running you through how to get the best from the game, camera positioning, lighting, etc etc……….then load screen.

We then selected a new movie (“Everyone’s a Superhero” I believe). It than ran us through all the lighting and postioning setting again, took a snapshot of the room without us, and then asked up to come back…..we had become ghosts….
Dependant on where we stood we either got 1/2 a head, or no legs, or I’d shed a few pound as one of my sides had disappeared….
So before we continues, I went back to the main menu, turned on more lights as my assumption was the contrast on the shadows was making parts of us disappear.

Ran through the configeration again, we were still ghosts, with no legs…ran through all the settings but to no avail, so we though, meh…we’ll do it anyway.

The games seemed to consist of running, a lot of running !, not the kinda thing you want to do with a belly full of beer, however in a crazy catch 22 situation, this was the only way you would want to play this game, after a few beers.

We ran through the “virtually run”, “virtually hold weights”, etc, etc. We did however have one major problem, C is 5″ smaller that I, so we ended up putting coins on the floor to mark where we needed to stand to have optimal recognition, but before each “challenge”, we seemed to have to move quite alot to get within the outline, then the camera still failed to correctly pick up movements.

Once we’d endured all the tests, we sat feeling a tad sick (from the beer inside us being shook up so much) to watch the finished production. It seemed to last 30 seconds…….5 mins of jumping about and painful loading times for this ?!?, it did as it says in the title, we were in the movies, well a 30 second click on the Xbox

Foolishly thinking that as it was the first level, and in most games the first level is always a tad lame, we did the 2nd one, again after reconfiguring we still had no legs, still much running, still poor recognition, after about 5 mins, we sat to watch the 2nd vid, and again about 30 secs of….well movie I guess. The thing is, with there only being 2 of us playing, and the game designed for 4, half of the time was using pre-rendered footage for the other 2 “players”, so we got even less screentime.

All I can say is, with is painful loadtime, and poor recognition, I’m glad I didn’t just buy game only (£25 on play.com), otherwise I think I would have been gutted !

I think the only way this would have worked well is with a green screen behind me, and me in a red jump suite, with my face painted red in a kinda Hellboy Stylee.

If I was to be really generous, I would give this a 4/10, as it’s Microsofts answer to the eyetoy, on the upside, I no longer have to buy a webcam for my Vista machine.

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