Movers and Shakers: The Kinect GUI

Hey everyone. I hope you’ve all recovered from the holiday stress, and are now back to enduring the normal comforting everyday grind like I am. No need to see the family, no special dinners to prepare or attend. No gifts to waste money on… I mean, no gifts to spend wisely on to delight your loved ones. Yes, now is the time to spend money wisely on things that will help you stay out of the cold. Unless you’re one of those lucky guys who lives in a warmer climate, and if you are then feel free to skip ahead.

So now that I’ve been playing Dance Central and using the Kinect for a few weeks now I have to say I have a real problem with the way the Kinect has been integrated into the standard 360 interface. To be blunt it hasn’t been. Instead it’s been shoehorned on top of the standard 360 menu system. It rankles me to think that they had all of this time to come up with a way to use the system without a controller and the best that Microsoft could do was to add an additional layer of menus to the already poor user interface that was foisted on us a little more than a year ago. I don’t understand how that can happen. Microsoft is a software company. They specialize in operating systems. OK, fine, you can be snippy and say they specialize in stealing operating systems and calling them their own, but I don’t care, they still have enough people either way who should know how to design a successful GUI. To then take that user interface and make it even worse by throwing something on top of it makes no sense at all. It’s not like they didn’t have an idea this piece of hardware was coming. Kinect (or Project Natal) was announced long before it ever shipped, and even before that Microsoft’s developers had to know they should probably figure out a way to integrate the thing into their console operating system.

Compare this with the Move, which Sony had operating perfectly with the Playstation 3’s XMB operating system from day one. Once plugged in and synced I could use my wand to move all over the “desktop”, select items, and navigate freely. Of course it couldn’t do everything, but the experience felt a whole lot more complete and organized than that of the Kinect. That experience felt ham handed from the first power up, with the system going through the basic start up routine that all 360s go through when first turned on. Except I’ve had my 360 for over a year now and had already set up the system, meaning there was no need at all for this process. I think Sony has made some mistakes with the Move, like splitting the user base by not enforcing a one wand per player policy, but I have to applaud them for at least getting the interface right.

I have one more complaint regarding the Kinect. I discovered recently that even though the Kinect has a camera it cannot be used in conjunction with the 360’s messaging system where it’s possible to send pictures to friends. I tried recently and was told to unplug my Kinect and plug in the Uno camera Microsoft sold for the 360. Mind boggling.

Anyway, let’s hope that the promised Spring update, which is supposed to enable Kinect support in Netflix and Hulu Plus, will also better integrate the peripheral into the main system. That’s it for me. Have yourself a holly jolly Hamuary.

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