Ok, Dabs asked me to do a little review of the Kinect I won in the competition. I feel it's only fair that as I didn't have to shell out for one, I can do what I can to pass on my thoughts to those thinking of parting with their cash!
First things first, I've obviously got the bundle here, whereas some of you will just buy the Kinect alone. I'll cover my experience of the whole thing as many people will be buying new or take the opportunity to upgrade.
In the box.. annoyingly, there isn't an HDMI lead supplied, only a standard composite cable, which feels a little like going to an expensive restaurant and then being given a plastic fork to eat with. An HDMI cable would cost them pence per box to supply and would mean users get the best experience out of the device from day one. It's also surprising especially given they provide batteries for the controller.
If you already have an XBox you'll want to go through the trouble of splurging away another £15 on a Transfer Cable to get all your data over to your new box from your old one. If these things were a fiver, I'd be OK with it, but £15 is a lot to spend just to copy the data over, ONCE. Sure you can use a USB stick, but at 16Gb max a pop, that's going to take a while provided you own one and can be bothered with having two consoles on the go to do the copying. I asked the dude in Game and they WILL take these back for a trade-in so you can make something back on them, plus I'm sure they go well on Ebay from people not wanting to spend the cash.
Anyway, this is all about Kinect I guess so here we go. The unit is smaller than you expect, about 11 inches across, by 3 inches deep/high, supplied with a generous cable, more than enough to get to wherever you want to mount it. Now, here's issue #1. It comes on a small base unit which needs a stable platform on which to rest and unless you have a handy shelf, you'll likely be putting it on a table under the TV. The location of the unit is very important, it must be at least 2' off the floor, so before you buy, think about where you're going to put it. This is nothing like the Nintendo Wii Sensor Bar so you can't just stick it to the top of your LCD TV.
Once you've got the unit mounted and the XBox on, it'll realise you've plugged in a Kinect and take you through some tutorials etc. for setting up calibration. The first thing you realise is that if you have a nice cosy English front room, you're screwed. The distance from my Kinect to the furthest back I can stand before falling onto the sofa is a little over 6 feet and this is NOT enough. Before you throw your consoles out of the window in anger however, it's not entirely fatal, but I'll cover why it's a problem in a second.
In terms of the technology, it's amazing, the calibration sessions show highly accurate analysis of the body and where your limbs are in space. In short, it's breathtaking watching it follow your every move without any other sensor technology except the camera. Light, objects and your clothing can throw it slightly but I was wearing black, in a room lit with only a lamp and it tracked me fine.
That said, it does get confused on a regular basis, especially if you have someone sitting on the sofa behind you. Whilst it can easily track two people, it's when you DON'T want it to is when it gets annoying. Microsoft say you clear a space and get people not playing out of the way, and they mean it.
Using Kinect on the dashboard isn't quite what you expect. I'd assume you could use it for the whole dashboard, whereas you're limited to a "Kinect-ified" hub which doesn't let you do things like scroll through the standard menus or manage your Xbox. This also extends to the Voice Activation which, inside the Kinect hub is very good (it's fun saying 'Xbox, Dashboard' like you're Jean Luc Picard) however you can't use it outside of that.
You can also use something called Kinect ID which will realise exactly who is in front of the camera and switch to their profile automatically. This is the first place I found room size a problem as you have to perform a series of movements so it can build up your profile and it asked me to stand in places in the room I physically couldn't get to. The Kinect seems to have a sweet spot of between 4-9 feet, so being stuck at 6 feet max meant I was missing about a third of my play space.This is extremely apparent in the games which require depth movement, however not such an issue for those which just require limb movement.
I played some of Kinect Adventures in the short time I've had it (having a 5 year old daughter means I've been being dictated to as to what we play and she seems obsessed with the simple idea of the Kinect ID setup!) I would say the first thing you have to do is get your head around is the fact that when you're trying to hit, or avoid, things you need to remember you're controlling your character and not yourself. So swinging for a ball when you expect it to hit you isn't going to work, you have to start moving a moment ahead, so it connects with your avatar. Not that this is any different from the Wii, however as you're sans controller, the psychology of it is somewhat different.
You also get demos of some Kinect specific games and we had a little play with Dance Central and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. The latter of these is extremely impressive, with the game measuring your physical dimensions (such as shoulder width, leg length etc.) all via the Kinect. I spent a while playing a mini-game where you have to punch blocks and couldn't help finishing the last block of with a Street Fighter style Hadouken which still worked as expected. Dance Central is almost the opposite, where you have to follow the moves of the character on screen (Think Guitar Hero but dancing) and this copies your character very well, again as this doesn't need depth it's more satisfying as you don't feel like you're going to fly over the sofa. Also, the control mech for the menus feels very "Minority Report" which is what we've all been after at the end of the day.
All in all, I'm in a real quandary. If I had bought this I would have cursed myself for not accepting that my living room is just too small to use it effectively, however I do think if you're really going to play the games, then it's worth having a little house rearrange, as the technology truly is brilliant. I imagine that, provided the developers take serious advantage of it, we'll see some really amazing games for it, hopefully steamrollering over the whole gimmick-to-be-whipped-out-at-parties concept which has been attached to the Wii.
So, if you've got £120 burning a hole in your pocket and the space to play, then this really is the human interaction revolution they've been talking about, or at least the first step on that road. However, if this is a toss up between a Wii or a Move, then take a very serious look at how big your playing area is before deciding. It's the superior technology, but it comes at a price.