Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing add-on for the Xbox 360 hasn't even been on the market for two months, yet we're already impressed with what the modding community has been able to do with the device. This is just the beginning, folks.
According to Eurogamer, an upcoming firmware release will improve the device's compression technology and depth sensor. As it currently stands, the Kinect detects movement at 30 frames per second at a 320x240 resolution, which is dictated by an artificial limit placed on the USB controller to use around 15MB/s even though it's capable of 35MB/s.
What Microsoft is trying to do is double the spec of the depth camera to 640x480 via a dashboard update. In theory, this could make the Kinect capable of detecting finger movements and hand rotations, which would open a whole new world for the modding community to play around with.
It's a shame there were only 250 "Collector's Edition Tron Wireless Controller" devices ever made, because the thing looks f'in awesome. On the bright side, it's not grossly overpriced (it runs $50), despite the limited edition run.
According to the product description, "this controller represents Clu, the current dictator of the Tron world, and the The Black Guard, his elite fighting force." Orange accents light up and run across the top and bottom portions, while the Tron logo sits on the bottom middle.
It also comes with rubber grips sporting a soft-touch finish, and none of it looks gaudy, at least from the pictures we've seen.
Are you as infatuated with the design as we are? If so, keep your eyes peeled. PDP.com will offer up the limited edition controller as a Web exclusive in "late December."
Maybe it's not the whole gimmick of motion controlled gaming that's holding you back from pairing your Xbox 360 console with a Kinect camera. Maybe, just maybe, you thought to yourself, "If only Microsoft made a Kinect laden with crystals and jacked up the price fourfold, then I'd be all in!"
If that sounds like you, then you're one lucky son-of-a-gun. Dutch website DSStyles.com is selling a customized Kinect plastered with over 5,000 genuine Swarovski crystals adhered to the front, back, and everywhere else.
"With over 5,000 pcs [of] genuine Swarovski crystals adhered, it can simply be acted as the sparkling light at night," DSStyles says. "Especially when playing the hottest game Kinect Dance, with these Swarovski crystals, it is just like dancing in the disco!"
Just like it, huh? In that case, at only $632, how could you not buy one?
Maybe this will turn out to be much ado about nothing, but according to Fudzilla, Microsoft is all finished supplying retailers with Xbox 360 250GB consoles for the year. That means Walmart, Best Buy, Gamestop, and every other retailer will have to make do with whatever stock is remaining.
This normally wouldn't be cause for concern, but with the recent release of Microsoft's Kinect motion control camera, the Redmond outfit is noting increased sales of its high capacity console.
"The situation isn't ideal, but we still have significant inventory of the Xbox 360 4GB model, and in fact, we have a good number of the 250GB slim upgrade hard drives if buyers want them. It isn't idea and it costs a little more, but if you had to have a 250GB model for Christmas, we could sell you one; it just would cost a little more and come in two parts," an un-named retailer told Fudzilla.
The looming shortage purportedly only affects U.S. retailers, Fudzilla says.
Prior to its launch, Kinect was mostly viewed as a gaming peripheral. But Microsoft's answer to comparable motion-gaming products from rivals Sony and Nintendo has turned out to be much, much more. Hackers are wallowing in the world of endless possibilities unleashed by the release of open source Kinect drivers. The latest hack has the Kinect perched atop a quadrocopter so it can lend its services as a 3D radar. The Ascending Technologies Pelican UAV uses the data from the sensor to fly autonomously through predefined waypoints while avoiding obstacles. The imaginative brain matter behind this hack belongs to a group of researchers at the Hybrid Systems Laboratory at UC Berkeley.
U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez gave out a verbal lashing to prosecutors who want to send a 28-year-old college student to jail on two counts of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). So what did defendant Matthew Crippen do, exactly? He modded Xbox 360 consoles, Wired reports.
"I really don't understand what we're doing here," Gutierrez said.
If convicted, Crippen faces five years for each count. Crippen, who is a hotel car-parking manager by day, is being accused of running a business out of his home hacking Xbox 360 optical drives so that they could play pirated games. Crippen maintains that his mods can be used for other purposes, and the judge so far seems to agree.
"The only way to be able to play copied games is to circumvent the technology," Gutierrez said. "How about backup games and the homebrewed?"
The judge also didn't take kindly to the prosecution telling the jury that it needn't prove Crippen willfully broke the law, also known as "mens rea" in legal speak.
"The first prosecution 12 years later, and you're suggesting a mens rea that is akin to exactly contrary to the IP manual: that ignorance of the law is now excuse?," the judge said. "You didn't even propose a middle ground. What's getting me more riled, it seems to me I cannot communicate the severity to you of what's going on here."
Are we the only ones that wish there were more judges like Gutierrez?
Microsoft this week announced that strong demand over Black Friday weekend helped bolster retail sales of its Kinect motion control platform to more than 2.5 million units since launching less than a month ago.
"We are thrilled about the consumer response to Kinect, and are working hard with our retail and manufacturing partners to expedite production and shipments of Kinect to restock shelves as fast as possible to keep up with demand," said Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. "With sales already exceeding two and a half million units in just 25 days, we are on pace to reach our forecast of 5 million units sold to consumers this holiday."
By comparison, the Sony Move sold just 1 million units during its first month of sales, while it took Apple's iPad two months to record 2 million units sold.
The Xbox 360 was first released on November 22, 2005 in the U.S. and Canada, just over five years ago today (by a week). As CNet notes, the coming and passing of the Xbox 360's fifth birthday without a successor in sight could very well mark the end of the 5-year console cycle that's been in place for three decades, give or take a couple of years between releases. Check it out:
Nintendo Entertainment System: 1985
Super NES: 1991
Nintendo 64: 1996
Nintendo GameCube: 2001
Nintendo Wii: 2006
Sony has kept the same cycle, releasing the original PlayStation console in 1995 followed by the PlayStation 2 in 2000 and the PlayStation 3 in 2006. Microsoft's first Xbox showed up in 2001.
Looking ahead, there aren't any new consoles on the horizon from any of the big three (Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony). Instead, each company has found other ways to extend the shelf-life of their existing consoles. Sony, for example, added 3D support, while both Sony and Microsoft recently launched their own take on motion controlled gaming. Nintendo hasn't been as active, but did add disc-less Netflix to the mix as well as various add-ons, like the Wii Balance Board and Wii Draw tablet.
On top of it, all three current-generation consoles are more adept than ever as serving as viable home theater media centers.
Which console(s) do you own, and do you plan on purchasing one before the end of 2010?
If you pay attention to technology in any way whatsoever, you've heard of Angry Birds. This smash hit mobile game is available on Android, iPhone, Symbian, and WebOS. But developer Rovio has announced that the game will be arriving on full game consoles in the near future, the BBC reports. The game will be distributed through the online markets on the Wii, Xbox, and PS3.
The shift from touchscreen input to controller input will be interesting for Angry Birds. In the game, players pull back a slingshot to launch birds at villainous, egg-stealing pigs. We imagine the game will have support for the motion control accessories on the various consoles. That would only make sense, and might end up a bazaar selling point of the Kinect. Would you play Angry Birds on your console?
Whether or not you view motion controlled gaming as a gimick is almost irrelevant, because either way, it's also a cash cow. Case in point -- it took Microsoft just 10 days to record 1 million Kinect sales for Xbox 360 units worldwide, the Redmond outfit announced.
"We are appreciative of the response we have seen from consumers that has culminated in sales of more than 1 million units in the first 10 days on the market for Kinect for Xbox 360," said Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. "This is a great start to the holiday season, and we will continue to work with our retailer partners to keep pace with high demand and deliver against our plan to sell more than 5 million Kinect sensors worldwide by the end of this year."
Given the Kinect's strong start and the holiday season launch, we won't question Microsoft's ability to reach 5 million units sold by the end of 2010. That's an impressive number, even before you consider that Microsoft was originally forecasting 3 million Kinect sensor sales by year-end.
Microsoft's Kinect uses an RGB webcam of sorts outfitted in a motorized bar to track full body movement. It's available as a standalone accessory ($150) or as part of a bundle with the Xbox 360 4GB ($300) and 250GB ($400).