Microsoft's Kinect system is great for gaming, but the fact that it's (mostly) restricted to being used with an Xbox really sucks. Last night we got our first look at an unchained Kinect-type sensor controlling games on a PC, and it'll likely be coming to a computer near you.
PrimeSense, the people originally behind the system that Microsoft turned into Kinect, have just released their own version of the Kinect sensor designed for PCs. It's apparently called the "WAVI Xtion," and no, I can't pronounce it either. The hardware is pretty much exactly the same as the Kinect, so you won't be shocked to hear that the PrimeSense gaming experience is basically identical to the Kinect gaming experience.
When we tested it out, the system was having some issues with the excessively dark and dramatic lighting in the demo room, but we played through a game involving leaning and jumping to control a futuristic surfboard type thing, and it was effective and fun. To navigate the game menus we just had to wave a hand at the screen, and the sensor would interpret the gesture as a mouse movement. Making a pushing motion with an open palm turned into a click.
If you think this could be a great way to browse through pictures and movies, you're not the only one. The first adopter of this new sensor looks like it's going to be Asus, who hopes to integrate the system into TVs and media center PCs to let you control them like you're that Tom Cruise guy in Minority Report. Asus seems rather excited about the whole thing, proclaiming that "this user interface is a new paradigm that represents how all CE products will eventually be naturally controlled and operated."
Hopefully Asus isn't advocating that we do away with mice and keyboards entirely, but if they plan on making gestures an intuitive component of computer interaction, that would be fantastic.
As far as when we're going to start seeing the WAVI Xtion up for grabs for consumers, you can expect it sometime in the second quarter of 2011