Hands-on Impressions of the Kinect 2.0 and Its Features

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Microsoft’s Kinect motion-control device was the butt of many jokes during its last-gen run, not too unlike Sony’s Move controller. Many gamers dismissed the technology as a gimmick, and most game developers never figured out the perfect way to use the Kinect to enhance their game’s gameplay. With that being said Microsoft has believed in the device since its release, and continues to push its benefits on gamers whether they like it or not. Microsoft is so in love with the Kinect that they decided to make it a mandatory pack-in item with the Xbox One, which released on November 22, 2013.

With the Xbox One out in the wild many gamers have had a chance to play around with the Kinect 2.0 sensor and its overhauled hardware. Upon first booting up the Xbox One its clear that the Kinect 2.0 is a major part of its user interface and operating system. One of the first things you’re asked to setup is the Kinect and its ability to see and hear you, so it can’t be escaped, but as you may have found out that may not be a bad thing.

During the setup process it’s immediately clear how much better the camera is on the Kinect sensor. It can see a much wider shot of your game space, effectively allowing you to not have to worry about where to place the Kinect. It no longer has to be directly in the middle of your setup, it can be anywhere with a decent viewing angle as long as it’s at least 2 ft off of the ground. I found this to be ideal considering that my entertainment center has become quite crowded now that I have the current-gen consoles mixed with the next-gen ones. The image the Kinect renders is also much clearer, making it simpler for the sensor to find you and recognize you.

Kinect 2.0 has a much more powerful and detailed camera

Kinect 2.0 has a much more powerful and detailed camera

After setting up the Kinect 2.0 device to work in your environment its uses begin to shine if you choose to use them. Nearly every feature of the Xbox One’s new UI can be controlled with voice commands. Saying “Xbox, select” allows you to choose any menu item that is highlighted in green to be selected with your voice. With this command you can navigate around the Windows 8 inspired UI as if you were a Starfleet captain controlling your own spaceship. I have found this feature to be more useful than I ever imagined, and tend to rely on using voice commands to get around my Xbox One’s menus exclusively. They really come in handy when you don’t feel like holding your controller, or have your hands occupied using the Xbox One Smart Glass app, or other devices that distract your hands from entering commands.

The Kinect 2.0 can also enable many of the new and exciting Xbox One features such as the Game DVR and Snap functions, as well as controlling your TV if you have it hooked up to the One’s HDMI-in port. While gaming if you perform something extraordinary you can say “Xbox, record that,” and it’ll save the last 30 seconds of your gameplay footage for sharing. If you want to multi-task while gaming you can say “Xbox, snap,” or “Xbox, snap <app name>” to bring up the Snap window and pin another app to the right side of your screen. If you want to see what’s on TV you can say “Xbox, watch TV,” and it’ll bring up your cable/sat provider’s offerings. Depending on the model of your cable/sat box you can also use voice commands to change channels and navigate the box’s menu via the One Guide.

All of these Kinect 2.0 features are cool and functional to say the least, but my favorite new function of the device has to be its ability to turn off and on the Xbox One with simple voice commands. These can be taken even further if you take the time to map your TV and audio receiver controls to the Xbox One, which will allow you to turn those devices off and on with voice commands as well, but just having the One turn on and off with your voice is solid enough to make you take advantage of it.

The guts that make the Kinect 2.0 more useful

The guts that make the Kinect 2.0 more useful

 

To turn off the console you just have to say “Xbox, turn off,” and then confirm your decision so your dickhead friends can’t shut your Xbox One off while you’re playing. Turning it on just takes a simple, “Xbox, on” command to get your Xbox One booted up and ready to play. You have to leave the One in a standby state to do so, but it’s well worth it since the console can also update itself, and keep games running for you to immediately jump back into as soon as the quick wake up process completes.

The Kinect 2.0 and its voice commands probably aren’t for everyone, especially those gamers who are pissed that they’re being forced to get one since its bundled with the Xbox One, but its merits shouldn’t be scoffed at. The new voice commands and deeper integration of the Kinect into the Xbox One’s UI makes the device quite useful for those gamers willing to give it a chance. For the most part, if tuned correctly, the Kinect 2.0 picks up voice commands quite well, and doesn’t require you to yell at it to function. I have experienced a few hiccups when trying to do too many things at once, but the commands I’ve highlighted above and below all work perfectly in my setup.

If you haven’t tried the new features of your Kinect 2.0 sensor then I implore you to do so, because they are actually quite functional. Study the recommended list of voice commands after the break and then give them a try during your next session with the Xbox One to see how useful the device can be. It’s important to note that many of the launch games for the Xbox One also use the Kinect 2.0 for voice functions, so it does have uses outside of UI navigation at this point. I may never use the Kinect 2.0 for motion-controlled gameplay (unless it makes sense), but I can definitely vouch for its voice commands, and how efficient they can make the Xbox One’s new user interface. Don’t get sidetracked by Internet trolls, test it out for yourself to see if the Kinect 2.0 will be a useful addition to your next-gen gaming experience! If anything, at least it makes entering unlock codes a breeze!

Kinect 2.0 commands to learn

  • “Xbox Select” – allows menu items to be selected with voice commands
  • “Xbox Home”
  • “Xbox On”
  • “Xbox record that” – records the last 30 seconds of your gameplay
  • “Xbox Snap <app name>” – snaps the spoken app to the screen
  • “Xbox Unsnap”
  • “Xbox Switch”
  • “Xbox Watch TV”
  • “Xbox Go to <app name>” – opens the spoken app
  • “Xbox use code” – scan QR codes for game unlocks

 

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1 comment

  1. Andy

    Agreed. I’m really liking the Kinect and I was pretty skeptical to begin with. I also found myself thinking about Star Trek TNG. If I could just say “computer” instead of Xbox and get it to call me Captain it would be perfect!

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