Kid & family ‘Kinect-ing’ from Microsoft

By Anne Collier

We all saw it coming last summer: videogaming getting even more physical. Used to be, waving around a Nintendo Wii controller was the ultimate in physical videogame play. But with Microsoft’s Kinect – which entered the marketplace last week – gamers now don’t even need a controller. This is both very cool and, at least in this first iteration of the Kinect technology, a bit problematic, Forbes reports. “When it works, Kinect allows for very sci-fi-like experiences. I wave and the Kinect recognizes me, and logs me into my Xbox Live account. I say ‘Xbox,’ and it brings up a menu of voice commands,” writes Forbes reviewer Oliver Chiang. “But even with all the resources Microsoft’s committed to developing this technology, it’s still so new that the limits of its magic are easily reached.” For now, Kinect requires an awful lot of space, because to be recognized by its motion sensors, the motions have to be really big. A lesser problem is having to hold your hand up and in one place to select options, which Chiang says can be more tiring than working buttons on a controller – but that may just be that he’s an experienced videogamer to whom those buttons are second nature. Kinect’s voice and facial recognition work pretty well, Chiang says, if the player doesn’t have a strong accent. USATODAY reviews some of the 17 games that will be available for Kinect by the end of the year.

But nobody’s writing about the significant parental controls that come with the new technology. The new family settings for Kinect and the Xbox 360 can adjust for each Xbox Live member in the family. For example, Microsoft says the default settings for kids under 13 “include blocking profile sharing and text, voice and video chat, and turning on Family Programming,” and those settings can be customized, kid-by-kid, by their parents, Microsoft says (details at its GetGameSmart site). A fun feature for avid photo-sharers is “Kinect Share,” which enables them to share pictures captured during games. And, probably prefiguring the Xbox 360’s continuing transformation into a full-blown family entertainment center (with Netflix already part of the lineup), there are Family Programming and game title blocking, which, when employed, prevent inappropriate content and games from appearing on-screen. Those are just some of a full array of parental controls parents will appreciate. Boys & Girls Clubs must be pretty confident that the Kinect experience will be safe – the organization is accepting a donation from Microsoft of a Kinect and Xbox 360 for each of the 4,000 Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the US (here’s more on that).

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