Kinect for Xbox demos in Tokyo, we talk with a skeptical expert
By Rick Martin
September 20, 2010
All eyes were on Microsoft at the Tokyo Game Show at Makuhari Messe this weekend, as the company was featuring the new Kinect for Xbox motion controller system, formerly known as Project Natal. The Xbox booth occupied a mammoth chunk of real estate on the show floor, with multiple demonstration areas set up to give Tokyo a look at this fancy new toy.
Thankfully Microsoft had a little more to show than just that unusual River Raft game we saw a few months back. The company announced a few new Xbox Live Arcade games which will work with Kinect including Codename D, Project Draco, and Haunt.
Microsoft's Kudo Tsunoda made a bold yet puzzling claim at TGS, ambitiously predicting that Kinect will surpass the iPad's sales figures. We're not entirely sure why he'd make such a comparison since Kinect and the iPad are two entirely different products.
Microsoft's Kinect possesses a huge wow factor for anyone seeing it for the first time. Its skeletal tracking system can handle two active players and track 20 joints per active player. The motion sensor operates at 30 frames per second and some users have noted that the game does not keep up with fast movement so well.
So what do the experts think? When we spoke to renowned sensor technology specialist Professor Masatoshi Ishikawa of Tokyo University, he expressed great skepticism about a system with such a slow camera, saying that 60 Hz is not fast enough to capture a fast kicking motion. You may remember Professor Ishikawa from such technologies as the high speed book scanner and and the no-touch mobile interface.
Back in 2002 he was already demonstrating a system using two cameras to capture the movement of a person's hands in three dimensions to control a basic flight simulator. That system had a much lower 32x48 pixel resolution but boasted 1,000fps compared to Kinect's 60Hz, which Professor Ishikawa was doubtful would be fast enough to translate smooth motion.
Obviously Microsoft disagrees and with so much riding on the success of Kinect it would be surprising if Microsoft were rushing to market with a sub-par system. Either way, it will be interesting to see how Kinect is received when it hits stores. With 1000 fps motion capture already being demonstrated it'll be even more interesting to watch what Microsoft and others do with future generations of this technology.
Sony Playstation Move
Sony was also in attendance at TGS, spotlighting their own motion controller, Playstation Move. With significantly less pomp than Microsoft in the adjacent hall, Sony's press conference on Thursday was a bit of a snooze-fest. The company did roll out an assortment of titles that capitalize on Move functionality as well as 3D technology.
Demonstration areas were set up where visitors could try out Move, but the arrangement resembled tightly-packed office cubicles and did not allow for many passers-by to witness what was going on.
Of course, the original pioneer in motion controller gaming, Nintendo, opted to skip the Tokyo Game Show entirely in favor of putting off their own event on September 29th at the very same venue. We expect the new 3DS to be the star of that show, but we're rooting for a few fun surprises as well.
In the meantime – have you tried Playstation Move? Will you be queuing up to get your hands on Kinect? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Update: We originally included a YouTube clip of our discussion with Professor Ishikawa but he has unfortunately informed us he'd prefer that the audio from his presentation not be used in the video so we have decided to remove it. We look forward to talking with him after Kinect is released and he's had a chance to check it out and will bring you his thoughts.