When the Wii’s motion-controller debuted in 2006 and started selling like hot cakes, both Microsoft and Sony were forced to take notice and re-evaluate their position in the high-def console arms race. Sony answered with the recently released Move motion-controller, but Microsoft took the intuitive step of removing the controller from the equation all together, replacing it with the Kinect sensor.
The Kinect sensor (see inset) is comprised of a camera, visual sensors and several microphones, all of which work together to track your movements and voice in 3-D space. The unit also has a motor that moves the sensor left, right, up and down to calibrate and track you if you’re moving during a video chat. The Kinect connects to the Xbox 360 via a dedicated cord on the newer slim units or via USB on the older Xbox 360 models. A power source is included for the older connections.
You can place the Kinect above or below a TV, but it needs to be within a few inches to maximize responsiveness. The Kinect manual recommends at least six feet between the sensor and the edge of your standing/playing area. In reality, though you need seven-to-eight feet for a single player game and something closer to 10 feet for two player games, especially titles that track your entire body and require jumping. And you’ll need to consider your height and the height of your ceiling, as jumping is a component in several of the games released so far. It’s important to note that room lighting will affect calibration and the sensor’s effectiveness in tracking your movements. Kinect definitely functions better in well-lit rooms.