5 Things Kinect Can’t Do (That Project Natal Said It Could)
[Editor’s Note: This article was published on BitMob.com in August 2011 where it received the accolade of being the most-read and commented on article of that month.]
Back in 2009 Microsoft released an incredibly well received promotional buzz trailer for the then-titled “Project Natal” which would later become the Kinect motion detection system. The trailer debuted in E3 ’09 to incredible interest and applause at the amazing feats depicted in the video (and no that’s not sarcasm, people assumed this would be the next level of gaming and were thrilled to see it taken a step higher). Project Natal, as it was called, boasted an honorable assortment of features and functionality compared to its predecessor the Xbox Live Vision Camera which featured picture quality on par with the Game Boy Camera for the most part. Seriously, Daguerreotypes had better clarity than that thing.
Project Natal’s trailer caught the attention of the masses with its promises and when it was finally unveiled as “Kinect” the following year we all simultaneously wondered “what the hell just happened here?” We just saw a kid transmute his skateboard into a video game object and now a year later we’re in some kind of fucking circus act? And when they finally unveil Kinect all we get to see is a white guy dancing like a white guy and a young Asian girl giving a handjob to a tiger? What the fuck went wrong?!
One year (give or take a few months) after the official release of the Kinect we are nowhere near coming to the grand stuff displayed and showcased in the Project Natal trailer. Here’s what the original preview trailer promised us, and exactly what they failed to deliver on. (You can view the original trailer here to refresh your memory.)
What you see in the Natal trailer: Ian, a scene kid with a hair helmet, approaches a nondescript martial arts fighting game wherein a generic kung fu guru taunts “you’ve come back for more?” Ian responds “let’s do this” and the game laughs at him and responds with a mocking tone. Ian then kicks Master Wong straight in the dick.
Upon first glance this just seems like some generic transaction of comments assuming you’re speaking to somebody in real life but Ian is speaking directly to a character in a video game who can apparently acknowledge and respond to answers more complex than a simple “yes” or “no”… and we’ve been screaming “no” at shitty games for decades now. The game scoffs at Ian’s rebuttal to its challenge and therefore actually shows some level of “thought” depending on the answer given. The pseudo-Japanese game shown in the trailer is also exactly one Hot Coffee mod away from being an ESRB nightmare.
No Xbox game presently available offers this level of linguistics understanding. Yoostar 2, a game where you re-enact scenes from popular movies, comes closest by giving you a script for you to read that the game judges your performance on but the quality of judgment is so poor it’s hilarious especially if you’re playing this in a party setting and you’re surrounded by ambient noise from other guests. You could hire the original actors themselves to repeat their lines and the game will still tell you that you have the acting talent of Howie Mandel.
What you see in the Natal trailer: A family is sitting down to play a formula one racing game where the daughter mimics the motions of driving and her family follows suit by leaning side to side with the turns the car makes (because ololol women can’t drive nur hur). Her father stands up and replaces a tire on the car during a pit stop. In a second hypothetical game a kid is seen playing a Godzilla-type city destruction game and swings his arms around to wreck buildings; he then makes a roaring sound and assumes a pose while the monster breathes fire.
Kinect can detect motion. I’m not going to say it can’t because that’s the entire focus of the peripheral but I will say that while it does indeed detect movement it definitely doesn’t do it at the caliber required to sense rapid “Z-axis” movement akin to replacing lug nuts on a tire or to see when you’re making a retarded roaring face to tell Not Godzilla to give macrophiles a shameful and awkward erection.
If you want the Kinect to see you do something you have to move in very pronounced motions so large movements can be seen by the stereoscopic cameras on the sensor. This works great for exercise games where you have to run in place or otherwise be “full body active” but when all you’re doing is making a pushing motion the Kinect can’t see this and doesn’t do anything and if it does actually do something then its detection is on par with the Nintendo Wii in terms of the likelihood that you’ll suffer first-world country ragequit and kick your plasma screen TV in.
Additionally, the Kinect doesn’t “like” when there’s a bunch of movement taking place all at once. The entire family moving side to side while the daughter drives? Doing that will cause your Kinect to overheat and explode. No, seriously, it’s just too much input and it will simply not detect your hands or the steering motion. It’ll be like driving a Toyota.
What you see in the Natal trailer: After kicking the sclerosis right out of Master Wong, Ian returns with a skateboard and instructs the Xbox to scan his deck into what I can only assume is the highly anticipated game Tony Hawk: TONY TONY TONY TONY TONY TONY. The Xbox takes two pictures of his skateboard and transmits them into a usable custom skin in his game.
The Kinect sensor can take pictures of things but as far as I’m aware there is absolutely nothing that features something of this fashion in any game, it’s simply too intricate of a concept for it to work properly with the Kinect. There are too many variables that would screw with the results such as lighting and whether or not you happen to own a skateboard. If there was a game out there that could properly translate mindless jumping and goofy stances into a skateboarding game then we wouldn’t have any use for the retarded miniature kayak that came with both Tony Hawk: Ride and Tony Hawk: Shred.
Upon watching this trailer the first thing I thought of was “what happened to the kid’s fingers?” No, really. Where did they go? His hands are obstructing a ridiculous portion of the skateboard but yet the game still somehow magically removes them from the complicated and intricate design shown on the bottom of the board. The second thought that entered my mind was “what’s stopping you from scanning your dong into the game and using that as a skateboard?”
What you see in the Natal trailer: A girl calls her obligatory black friend Sarah to talk about a party they are both going to. Sarah asks if her friend has a dress, she says no and proceeds to vomit profusely. Sarah offers her condolences and then says she has a solution because she found a dress for her friend. Sarah then waves like an idiot at her Xbox to cycle through a bunch of outfits in an unnamed dress-up type of menu and picks out a black dress that Unnamed Girl of Dubious Ethnicity “picks up” and puts onto a picture of her, which then turns out to be a 3D model of her body that can rotate depending on her stance in front of the television.
Seriously? This is just stupid. The amount of attention to detail it would take to set up something like this is ridiculous not to mention the sheer un-feasibility of it all. If anything this demonstration poses more questions than answers. Where did all of those outfits come from? Are they downloaded from some kind of JC Penny catalog? How’d they get that perfect model of the unnamed chick in the sassy pose? What if someone grotesquely fat tries to use this feature, does this program support XXXXL T-shirts with Internet memes on them?
What you see in the Natal trailer: Ian returns again with his adoptive family to play a quiz show game where he attempts to play Rock, Paper, Scissors with the host before blurting out the name of a random American president to the question “what is the capital of France”. Upon giving his answer he and his father have a quick contest to see who can make the best bewildered expression followed by the game show host confirming a correct answer. Of importance in this scene is the fact that the game addresses Ian by his first and last name (Dixon). The host then sets comedy back a decade by making a Chuck Norris joke.
Again, I’m not really going to harp on the whole “you have to do more than pretend you’re fisting a horse to get the Kinect to see you” thing but I do want to point out that it’s simply not possible for a game to seamlessly incorporate something as complicated as a first and last name into a sentence without sounding roboticized* and choppy. There are games out there (such as Grid) that have some prerecorded names that you can choose from that the VO will announce throughout the game but generally these things only cover the rudimentary bases. If your name is Joe then the host will call you by your name, but if it’s something more exotic then I hope you like being referred to as “Contestant”.
Also the fact that they’re dominating the black family by a 900 point margin is pretty goddamn racist.
*Fun Fact: I have not used this word at all since I wrote awful Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction in elementary school.
I understand that this trailer is just a conceptualization of what Microsoft
wants wanted to do. I get that. They even say it on-screen for the first five seconds of video but part of the bargain when you’re making an announcement — an E3 announcement at that — is at least coming close to what you’re showcasing in your trailers and previews. Out of all of the shit demonstrated in the video by Project Natal do you know which things the Kinect can actually do?
You could do that with the Xbox Live Vision Camera.