Microsoft unveiled its new add-on for the Xbox 360, known as Kinect, which uses motion detection instead of hand controls to play –- similar to Nintendo’s Wii. Microsoft, which launched Kinect at E3 in L.A., believes the program will make the Xbox more accessible to disabled gamers.
Ablegamers.com writer Steve Spohn has some nice things to say about Kinect. The biggest accessibility enhancement for disabled gamers, he says, is the addition of voice commands. For people with physical disabilities this means being able to play and pause games with the use of a voice instead of a remote control.
But the more exciting applications of Kinect are the uses that go beyond gaming. For example, being able to control the television with a voice or wrist is a dream come true for people with physical disabilities, who often must buy expensive environmental control units to make their home theaters work. By talking or waving, a camera will pick up your movements and let you control the system.
Using Kinect, you can use one hand to navigate through the menu to select and use Netflix, Zune, Facebook, and many more applications. The video chat feature lets you call up a friend, and listen to music, surf the web or watch a movie in the same window together.
Video chat is a great accessibility feature for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, too. The new iPhone 4 that launched last week also includes a video chat program called FaceTime, which will let deaf people communicate with each other in sign language, lip-reading and facial expressions. Sure, Skype video already exists, but having this technology on a mobile platform is a powerful tool for communication for this group.
One of Kinect’s new proprietary games is called Kinectimals – a next-generation version of taking care of virtual pets. Microsoft demonstrated this game with a seven-year old girl and her virtual pet tiger named Skittles. The little girl was able to scratch, pet, hug, and even play with the tiger using only her hands and her voice. Kinectimals apparently won the crowd over at E3, and it might help a child with a cognitive or physical disability grow their social skills.
In addition to Kinectimals, Kinect games include football, racing, water adventure sports, fitness, and dance competition. But for disabled gamers, Spohn is split on whether Kinect has enough overall appeal. “In order to know whether to be excited about this device, you’re going to have to take an inventory of your disability,” Spohn writes.
Kinect will be available November 4 and is rumored to cost around $150, according to PC World. The iPhone 4 can be pre-ordered starting today and will ship June 24.
Other video game makers, including Nintendo and Sony, are expected to make announcements at E3 as the week continues.