Thursday, July 16, 2015

Xbox On!

As promised in my previous post, after receiving my $50 store credit, I immediately placed an order for Kinect.

I took it out of the box, and set it up in the location that I thought would be perfect: Just on top of our Center speaker.
But from there, even at the lowest angle I could adjust it to, Setup complained that it couldn't see my floor.

So, physically, it has ended up in one of the most dangerous places in the room: Right in front of the TV, on the stand, right in the path of oncoming flung dog toys, visiting toddlers, or other disasters.
But for now, it's fine.

At first, it was a little difficult to get used to the gestures, and to get it to hear us just right (still getting used to that).

The free dance game ("Dance Central Spotlight") that comes with the Kinect unfortunately has a major bug: Apparently if you play with 2 players, and both players receive an Achievement notification, the whole thing locks up. So it can only be played with Notifications disabled. That's a bit disappointing.
But we did end up downloading Just Dance 2015... which works a bit better, but is also disappointing in a way (or at least we haven't discovered all the settings yet): In previous Just Dance games, at least on the Wii, you were able to have separate "Dancer Cards" for each person, which kept track of time played, calories burned, personal bests, etc. This seems to only allow you to play one at a time, and assign random names to you while dancing (so, instead of "OssianGrr" and "Eli" and "Talita" dancing, we are forced to be named "Crazy", "Happy", and "Sunny" or whatever). Meh.
Other than that, I do see the benefit of getting exercise out of this, and the dance games are obviously less-forgiving than the Wii ones, since the Kinect is actually watching how you move and not just guessing from a few Wiimote gestures.

Incidentally, when we were setting all of this up, there also happened to be a known Xbox Live Outage, which made some things a little difficult.

Now, gestures:
Gestures in the main UI are kind of silly, but I'm getting used to it. I guess there's a point to being able to switch tasks and scroll with "grabs", but I think mostly I will default to the controller.

User recognition:
It's almost perfect. The Kinect camera sometimes needs some coercing to recognize me, Eli, or Talita. But it's only been a few days, and I think it's training itself whenever we click the complaint button. And it hasn't had any false positives. Only nondetection.
That being said, it's a (theoretically) super-convenient feature.

Voice controls:
Just like some other rants I've given, this suffers from a few problems.
When it works, it works awesomely! Nice that I can say the name of a game and it goes there, and stuff like that.
And "Xbox On" is a nice touch when it's in half-powered-down state.

But: Anyone in the room can shout commands which can lead to some master trolling (taken to an extreme, see here: ) and I presume that if someone said "Xbox Sign Out" in a netflix show or something, it would pop up the interface just like when "A Serious Problem" in my audiobook was interpreted as "Hey Siri!".
Recognition of the voice of the primarily-logged-in user would be an amazing feature (Android does this! It's possible!), or at least customization of the trigger word.. but at least since this isn't a mobile device, there is slightly less chance of it overlapping with someone else's device.

Controlling other stuff with the Kinect:
This is a bit of scary voodoo.
I was under the impression, all along, that if I wanted the Kinect to control my TV or other components, I'd have to have some sort of hydra of IR blasters sticking out of the xbox. It doesn't support CEC control, and it's just basically Infrared passthrough.
But no...
The Kinect is facing outward. Away from everything.
And magically, it "just works" to turn my TV on and off, control volume on the receiver, etc etc.
This means it must be blasting out quite a bit of infrared light, enough to maintain a signal after bouncing off of non-reflective surfaces. I wonder if that's healthy.
That being said, I don't care if it's healthy. It's impressive!

Right now, I have it set up so that when I turn the Xbox on, it turns my TV on (apparently my TV has unique "on" and "off" IR codes! Another great discovery!), and I can use my voice to control volume/muting on the receiver. Pretty amazing.
When the xbox turns off, I don't turn anything else off yet. That kind of changes the setup a bit more than expected, but I might still play around with it.
And, as well as this is going, I might even try out the HDMI-passthrough from cable box after all. I've heard some negative things about this interface -- and I'm not 100% keen on needing both the xbox and cable box on at full power every time I want to watch certain content -- but there's only one way to find out if it works for us.

The poor PS3 will probably not be powered on any time soon for much; ironically it has now been *downgraded* to a games-only machine.
The Wii will likewise probably get *less* usage, but not *none*.
The Chromecast is still the best way to fling youtube (and some other occasional content) at the TV.

All of these have to be taken into account, though. when I decide how much power and control to hand over to Xbone.
And of course I'm not the only one who has to use all of this ;)

More commentary coming.. There's definitely a lot more to say about Xbox than there is about the iphone or other "new gadgets" I've mentioned...

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