The Xbox 360’s new Kinect motion controller has all sorts of potential. Unfortunately, it also has some limitations, at least for now. Microsoft is still calibrating the system for seated play, and it hasn’t confirmed whether gamers will be forced to stand when the controller launches later this year.
At least Redmond has confirmed that Kinect’s "entertainment" controls, which are presumably based on simpler gestures confined to a user’s upper body, will work while lounging on the couch. Those entertainment controls are also coming to PCs and consumer electronics gear. PrimeSense, the company behind Kinect’s motion tracking, has revealed that the technology will make its way into home-theater PCs and set-top boxes next year. TVs are being targeted, as well, but no deals have been signed on that front yet.
PrimeSense is responsible for Kinect’s cameras and motion tracking, but the system’s voice recognition and tilt functionality belong to Microsoft, so they’ll remain exclusive to the Xbox controller. There are other ways to get voice recognition running on the PC, so that’s not much of a loss. Besides, simple gestures should be enough to control the majority of commonly used home-theater PC functions. A standard remote will likely be more efficient, but I quite like the idea of browsing program guides, photos, and other media with the flick of a wrist. Besides, it would be novel to bring new technology into my living room that could actually remove a remote rather than adding another one.
At the moment, it looks like PrimeSense’s PC ambitions are limited to pre-built systems. There’s no mention of the motion-tracking tech making its way into a peripheral that users would be able to plug into any PC, which is really a shame. Of course, Microsoft does make PC versions of its Xbox 360 controller. Perhaps there are plans for Kinect itself to make its way to the PC, hopefully with robust Windows Media Center integration and support for programmable gestures in tow.