Microsoft unveiled Kinect, the company's foray into motion activated controls for the XBOX 360 gaming console that was previously known as Project Natal. Users can play games and navigate menus and web apps by waving their hands or by using their voice, but the camera in Kinect can also be used for social communication. Announced this morning at Microsoft's keynote at E3, Xbox Live users will also be able to video chat from their TVs with friends and family using Windows Live Messenger.Last night
Using Star Trek-esque voice commands like "Xbox - Start video chat!", users can connect face-to-face with their contacts with live video chat thanks to Kinect's camera. The video chat features are built on the Windows Live Messenger chat platform, so chatting Xbox-to-computer is also a likely possibility. Users chatting Xbox-to-Xbox can also watch videos, listen to music or browse news items together in real-time.
The camera can track where your face is, so if you move around the room during a conversation, the camera will pan to follow you. To end a chat, hand motions can be used, but most people will likely opt for blurting out "Xbox - End video chat!"
The disappointing part of this is that Windows Live Messenger connections are required to use the video chat capabilities. Xbox live already features Facebook and Twitter integration, so it would be nice if connecting for video chat with these friends was easier than asking for their Gamer Tag.
Will video chat even take off on the Xbox? Or will the novelty wear off? Much like the iPhone's video chat capabilities, I see this kind of feature being used in special situations. If there's a party at your house and you want to have a group of people chat with some people who couldn't make it, Kinect's video chat could be nice way to do that. As would the iPhone. There seems to be a lot of momentum behind video chat, and perhaps it is hitting its stride in 2010. Kinect could be one way video chat becomes a predominant form of communication.
The majority of Microsoft's keynote focused on introducing new games as well as applications for the new Kinect technology. Interestingly, however, pricing for Kinect was not announced and a rumored Hulu app for Xbox Live was also disappointingly absent.
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