Microsoft Reveals AvatarKinect at CES

Microsoft just completed its annual press briefing at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show and there were a couple of nice surprises announced. In a move that will likely be applauded by those who wish to stop paying for expensive satellite or cable bills, Xbox Live Gold members will now be able to stream the subscription service, Hulu Plus, through their Xbox 360 consoles.Additionally, the Kinect’s hand and voice gestures will no longer be confined to Zune Marketplace and will finally be available for both Hulu Plus and Netflix some time in Spring 2011.

Another feature launching this Spring is Avatar Kinect, which uses the Kinect to track a user’s facial movements and then animate the movements on their onscreen avatar. With the hacks that have been released for the Kinect, it is not terribly surprising that the Kinect is capable of such finite tracking. Check out Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, showing off the technology here:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxmyXxeczuE&feature=player_embedded#!

As you can see from the trailer, Avatar Kinect appears to be a fancy chat room where the avatars representing you and your friends can sit on virtual sets and converse. You’ll even be able to record your roundtable conversations and upload them to Facebook, just in time for the release of the next Twilight movie. Whether Microsoft has put filters in place to prevent, um, inappropriate gestures will likely be a hot topic for future debate.

Ballmer also relayed some other interesting facts about the Xbox 360:

  • There are currently 30 million registered Xbox Live members.
  • The Xbox 360 has been the top selling console in the United States during the past six months.
  • The console has sold more than 50 million units worldwide.
  • The Kinect blew by its sales target of 5 million by the end of 2010 and instead sold 8 million within the first 60 days.

Lastly, Microsoft pushed Xbox Live integration with its Windows 7 smartphones. You’ll be able to access your avatar, Halo Waypoint, certain Microsoft Game Room titles, and other account features. In addition, games tied to major properties like Fable, Need for Speed, and Assassin’s Creed will be available and any achievement points earned will be added to your main Xbox Live account, making it possible for achievement points hoarders to obsess over their addiction during their entire waking day.

What do you think of Microsoft’s CES announcements?

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