Ever since its release last year, Kinect has heralded a major shift in Microsoft’s mission plan. Now, the company is looking for new and innovative ways to use the hardware in order to benefit its games. While games like Dance Central have made great use of the hardware, other implementations were far less impressive. With the release of Microsoft’s Kinect Fun Labs, gamers will be able to get an inside look at the new ways in which the Kinect hardware will be used.
Unveiled today at their press conference after being rumored to appear, Kinect Fun Labs will allow gamers to get their hands on the newest implementations of the Kinect hardware, testing them and getting a look at what’s to come for the future of the device.
On stage at the presentation, three applications were shown. First was Kinect Me, which marks the first step in truly bringing the gamer closer to their Xbox 360 avatar. Posing in front of the camera, the application captures the subject’s head and body before showing them a true-to-life avatar representation of themselves. This could make gamers’ avatars even more of an interactive extension of themselves rather than a vaguely similar model.
The next application shown was Kinect Sparkler. This application allowed gamers to capture an image of their gaming space along with the people and objects in it. Then, with the image frozen in time, the program makes use of its finger tracking technology as gamers draw around their frozen image in 3D using a sparkler trail. Moving around the space moved the image as well, giving the gamer a better angle to draw from. This technology, if implemented correctly into a game, could make for a really unique and immersive experience.
Finally, the application Googly Eyes was shown off. In a manner similar to Kinect Me, gamers place an object in the view of the camera and move it around so that it can be scanned. Once the scanning is complete, it comes to life as an object which can then be moved using the player’s body. While the application itself does not present very much for the player to do, it is the possibility of customization in its future implementations that makes it truly impressive.
Not only did Microsoft show off each of these short applications during their presentation, but they also went on to tell gamers that the service would be made available on Xbox Live today. No details regarding which applications will be playable have surfaced yet, but it’s likely that Kinect Me, Kinect Sparkler, and Googly Eyes will all be available.
While some gamers may dismiss the service as shallow, the potential for Kinect Fun Labs is extremely high. If it is consistently updated with new applications and implementations of the Kinect hardware, not only will it provide short bursts of entertainment for gamers, but it could also provide developers with inspiration and ideas of ways in which Kinect can be integrated into their games.
By adding a community feature in the future, Kinect Fun Labs could become a crucial part of the Kinect development cycle. If it were to be used as a platform for sharing Kinect homebrew and user mods, this would not only allow independent developers to share their Kinect experiments with the world, but also hopefully integrate them into larger releases.
For the time being though, Kinect Fun Labs looks to be a fun distraction and a great way to show off the hardware’s strengths. It is releasing today on Xbox Live for free and will update as more applications become available.
What do you think about Kinect Fun Labs. Do you think that Microsoft will make use of its strengths in order to aid in Kinect game development?
Stay tuned to Game Rant for more news and updates as E3 2011 continues through the week.