Kinect Sports Rivals: stand in your lounge & wave your arms around

I’ve been riding a jet ski in my lounge room for the past couple of nights.

Now before you do another “Whaaaat?”, I haven’t been riding a real jet ski in my lounge, but a virtual one thanks to Microsoft and Kinect Sports Rivals , an Xbox One game that puts a sports arena at your fingertips.

Set on a sporting paradise simply called The Island, Kinect Sports Rivals is a game where you jump and wave your arms in from of the Kinect camera in an effort to taste victory in six sports, including rock climb, soccer, wave runners and tennis.

I haven’t played enough of the game yet to do a proper review but I want to touch on the tech behind the game, which uses the Xbox One’s improved Kinect camera to take a full body scan of the player before you start playing  – and the result is pretty damn impressive, actually.

Hey, it's me: My Kinect Sports Rivals avatar as captured by the Xbox One's Kinect camera.

Hey, it’s me: My Kinect Sports Rivals avatar as captured by the Xbox One’s Kinect camera.

When the game starts, its narrator – former Dr Who star David Tennant – asks you to stand in front of the Kinect camera, which then scans your body and face. During the face scan you have to move your head up and down and to the let and right.

Once it’s obtained all the information it needs, you see pixels materialise into the shape of a person. It’s creating your virtual character. This is when you get to see whether the scan looks like you or not.

The first scan didn’t do too well, giving me glasses and a beard, but to be fair, it was due to the abysmally poor lighting in the room that I’ve temporarily got the Xbox One set up in.

A scan the following day with full sunlight streaming into the room  was much more successful. You can see a picture of my virtual sports star in this blog. Look to your right.

During the creation process and your face is just a mass of pixels, the narrator urges your to smile, frown and make faces to see that the on-screen face will move with your facial movements.

Down to the final product, then. While it’s not a pixel perfect representation of what my face looks like, I can definitely see elements of my face in my Kinect Sports Rivals avatar, so it’s succeeded in that regard (sadly, I don’t have a chiselled chin and piercing blue eyes). I’m wearing some sort of skin-tight body suit which can be upgraded as I progress through the game.

I’ll get a review up as soon as I can (we’re about to move into a motel for four nights until our earthquake-damaged home is finished getting repaired) but I thought I’d just show you what the new Kinect is capable of when it comes to scanning people.

So what did exactly did I do in New York?

Well, I walked a lot, ate quite a bit, bought a few things, saw some amazing sights and – the main reason for my visit – attended the Kinect for Kids event, held in a building in NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen district. Today I spoke to Glenn “Wammo” Williams about it today.

You can hear about it here, whether you’re a fan of Microsoft’s Kinect hands-free controller or not.

Go listen. You know you want to.

E3 2011: Xbox press conference – where Kinect rules the roost

OK, here’s my take on the Microsoft Xbox press conference that was held today (4.30am New Zealand time, so no wonder I’m a little tired now) and it was a press event that had a raft of Kinect games on show and a brief glimpse of where the Halo franchise is going.

The 90-minute Xbox event was dominated by Kinect, with Xbox’s Don Mattrick introducing the “next wave” of Kinect titles which showcased the device’s gesture and voice commands.

The event opened with a demo of Modern Warfare 3, showing a diver planting a bomb on a submarine before joining fellow operatives in boarding a enemy vessel and shooting their way to the surface and launching missiles. Next up was Kinect – which was the focus of the show – with EA’s Peter Moore saying there would be Kinect support for upcoming Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Fifa and Madden games, as well as in The Sims 3 Pets and Family Game Night 4.

Next up was Ray Muzyka, from Bioware, who was there to introduce Mass Effect 3, a game he said will support Kinect voice in both conversations and in combat. Players will be able to converse with players using voice, rather than the controller, as well as order commands to your squad during combat.

Ubisoft’s Yves Guillemot introduced Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier, which will have Kinect support for weapon customisation – you can build something like 20 million unique weapons using arm gestures or voice commands. The demo also showed how you can reload, aim and fire a weapon using gesture rather than the controller.

“Xbox where’s my voice commands, huh?”

Xbox Live’s Marc Whitten saids YouTube was coming to Live and you’d be able to use voice commands to “control your entertainment” (NZ doesn’t even have operational voice commands yet: when are we going to get that, Microsoft?). Microsoft’s search engine Bing is also coming to Xbox Live so if you want to search for a particular game – say, anything with Lego in it – you can go “Xbox Bing Lego” and it will show all matches.

Whitten says Xbox Live TV is going to the United States and around the world (including Foxtel in Australia) but will such a feature come to New Zealand, and if so, when?

Halo and Gears of War 3: for the hardcore gamers

Hardcore Halo fans weren’t forgotten with a trailer of Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary, a fully remastered and remade version of the original featuring the full campaign and seven multiplayer maps, and Cliff Blesinski and rapper Ice-T played a co-op level of Gears of War 3 where Dom and his team had to fight a giant, ugly, google-eyed sea monster.

Blesinski said thanks to the GOW3 multiplayer beta, this game would be the “best and most polished Gears game to date”.

Peter Molyneux came out for Fable: The Journey, in what seems to be a first-person, on-rails Fable with Kinect support.

“Fable has always been about you being the hero but we wanted to know how we can make you 100 times more involved,” Molyneux said. The next Fable game would bring “power and control to your fingertips”. The demo showed a guy controlling a horse and cart, holding his hands out in front holding the reins, then conjuring up magic and spells during some combat. He also slapped enemies.

Minecraft, the game that swept the PC world by storm, is also coming to Xbox 360 as well as two Kinect games for children: Kinect Disneyland Adventures and Tim Schaefer’s Once Upon a Monster.

Use the fork, Luke

The briefly glimpsed Kinect Star Wars from last year’s E3 was shown in demo form today, and the intro showed rancors, cloud city, clone troopers, speeder bikes, pod racing and space battles. “Lightsabre on,” the dude playing the demo shouted – and his blue lightsabre sparks into life. He used force push to move a tank and push droids out of the way. The demo ends with two sith appearing, and both duel wielding lightsabres.

Something that is really interesting to me, though, is Kinect Fun Labs, which Microsoft’s Kudo Tsunoda said would be available for download over Xbox Live today – and it is: I downloaded it this morning but haven’t had a play yet.

Fun Labs is a collection of Kinect tools that lets you scan objects so you can play with them in-game as well as do 3D painting using finger scanning. Fun Labs supports individual finger scanning as well as body scanning, which means you can create an Xbox Live Avatar that looks like you.

Kinect Sports is back with Season 2 and it brings six new sports, including skiing and tennis, plus in-game voice recognition and new gestures. The demo showed a woman playing golf and two testosterone-fuelled dudes playing a game of American football.

Dance Central 2 was also shown off, then Don Mattrick returned, saying that this year Xbox 360 would change living room entertainment forever and that “Xbox 360 will become the bestselling console globally”. He closed the conference by announcing a “new trilogy for the Xbox 360”, then the Halo 4 trailer played, showing a Master Chief on board a damaged spaceship  heading towards a giant white ring.

EA and Sony also have their press conferences today. I missed the EA one – I had to go to work – but did watch the Sony one on a most unreliable livestream. I’ll get my thoughts on Sony’s presser later tonight.

Nintendo’s is tomorrow, where it is expected to show off its next console.