A leaked instruction manual for Microsoft's new motion-controlled camera, Kinect, hit the Web last night and is already spurring a lot of controversy. The graphic shows a requirement of six to eight feet of space needed to set up the system for it to track your body gestures properly. That's a lot of real estate, but there is a rationale, believe it or not.
Consumers are expressing their concern over the leaked manual photo because most gamers don't have the minimum six feet to spare to flail around in Kinect Sports or Dance Central. But let's stop for a second and consider why needing more space for Kinect isn't the end of the world and might actually be a good thing.
More than anything, Kinect is designed for multiplayer gaming. Microsoft's early ads and promo videos make this very clear, depicting families playing together in the living room. We're talking about at least four people being tracked by Kinect's cameras and transformed into human controllers. Microsoft doesn't want Kinect to be a singular experience, much like Nintendo doesn't want you to play the Wii by yourself locked up in your room. You need space to host people. A Kinect party in a hole in the wall isn't going to cut it.
Kinect software is designed around the idea of shared gaming — or in Nintendo's words, "expanding the market" which is the second major point that forces Kinect to need more room: social experiences. How much fun would performing a perfect dance combo or defeating your best friend at a round of table tennis be if they weren't right next to you?
Laugh all you want, but one of the reasons Wii is so successful is the because of the real shared experiences you participate in when you succeed or fail in a game. Seeing that look on your pal's face after jumping around for 10 minutes wouldn't be the same if it was shown in a separate window on your TV over Xbox Live. Trust us, you'll thank Microsoft for creating embarrassing moments of hand-waving, foot-kicking or whatever gestures Kinect games require — memories you'll have a good chuckle at later.
Finally, safety is a very important thing when playing these interactive video games. Microsoft won't need to worry about things like controllers thrown into TVs, but it does need to try its best to keep Kinect hazard free. Punching and kicking in a fighting game can get rougher when you're completely immersed in a digital world — just don't forget that you're performing those actions in a real one. Give your space a once-over before going all Minority Report on your avatar and consider yourself warned by the makers of Xbox. You don't want to accidentally slug your grandma now do you?
Kinect will be released in North America on November 4, 2010 and will retail at $150 for just the camera sensor.