If you want to mark yourself out as a fool, one of the best ways is make a prediction about the future. Case in point, in 1943 the head of IBM predicted a global market of "maybe five computers". Seventy years earlier, some anonymous memo writer at Western Union wrote, "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication."
But at the risk of sounding foolish, I would like to make a prediction about the future. This Christmas, I predict many thousands of Kiwis will be jumping about their lounges acting like epileptic marmots.
How do I know? Because I recently got the chance to act like one of those marmots myself while playing with Kinect, the body controller system for the Xbox360.
You may have heard about Kinect it's the revolutionary new way to control video games. However, rather than using a handheld gadget or a gizmo, you use your own body movements. You can even control movies or music with the wave of a hand or the sound of your own voice. Minority Report
here we come.
I was invited to try Kinect at a Microsoft-hosted event at the (where else?) Home of the Future in downtown Auckland.
Now, usually, when you are invited into somebody's house for the first time, you are discouraged from acting like a madman, jumping around and stuff.
Here, it was the opposite. The marketing team encouraged us to let loose and try out a selection of games which will be available when the unit goes on sale in mid-November.
It was an odd experience to begin with. The first time you step in front of a Kinect controller you feel, how should I say this, slightly stupid. The Kinect is essentially a horizontal box that sits below your TV and "reads" your moves. It contains a camera, a microphone for voice recognition and an infrared range finding sensor.
You have to calibrate each game the first time you use it but this is as simple as following a few on screen instructions such as "hold out your right arm" that sort of thing.
Within seconds of beginning a game you forget about being self-conscious and start to immerse yourself in the action.
First up we tried out Kinect Sports
a kind of virtual Olympics for your living room. Amazingly I got a world record throw on my first javelin attempt. So what if I was the first user of the day and the game was set on super easy? I still felt like a champ.
Next, we had a look at Kinectimals
. This is definitely one for the kids. The game player can adopt one of five super-cute little wild animals, for instance a lion or a cheetah. The objective is to teach them commands, play with them and help them compete in contests.
One of the nice touches with this game is that you can give the animal a name using the voice command. Later, the animal will recognise your call and come running over to you. Neat, and cute.
The final game we tried out was Dance Central
. This game was developed by Harmonix, the developers who created the worldwide blockbuster Rock Band
. Apparently Dance Central
is the first immersive dance video game that tracks full-body dance moves.
I didn't give this one a go as I lack one crucial yet necessary function for controlling a game like this rhythm. But kudos must be given to Mike, one of the marketing reps from Microsoft. He stepped up and kept the crowd enthralled with his near-Usher like dance moves. That dude must have practised a lot
While I quite enjoyed playing with Kinect, I did identify one downside. It reminded me how out of shape I am. Oh well, perhaps I will be fitter in the future.
You'll get your chance to try out Kinect when it goes on sale in New Zealand on November 18.
John Buckley is a tech commentator and TVNZ gadget reviewer