Microsoft has launched a version of Kinect, its voice and motion-controlled sensor, to work with Windows-based PCs. It joins a previous version which was designed for the company’s Xbox 360 games console. This is all new hardware, which allows it to track movements as close as 40cm away, compared to 50cm on the original model.The enhanced features of the device include “skeletal tracking” and improved speech recognition, as well as the cost of developing a device that works across several systems, rather than a single games console, which has to be good news. In spring 2011, Microsoft decided to release a software development kit which allowed coders to build their own software on the platform. This move has resulted in several innovative uses, including a control mechanism for a search-and-rescue robot, and a scanner to create blueprints for 3D printers.Kinect holds the world record for being the fastest-selling consumer device in history, shifting over eight million units between November 2010 and January 2011 and recent figures suggest more than 18 million devices have now been sold.
Is this the way that entertainment will be going in the future as the Xbox’s latest update seeks to make the video games console a single hub for all sorts of home entertainment, whether this is films, TV or gaming, the Xbox with Kinect should be all you need. Controlled by gesture, voice or the traditional controller, this is a gadget that feels increasingly futuristic, even though the hardware itself is not new. Wave your hand to scroll through a list of tracks, games, movies or options, or even just talk to your television.There is maybe a snag though, because Sky customers in particular need a real justification to watch their existing service via the new Xbox app, although it offers two significant improvements. Firstly, the interface for Sky on Xbox is the required, marked improvement, making it far easier to find on demand films, and offering the same, familiar channel guide for live Sky TV. Because it’s delivered online, it means that, say, a family could log on wherever they find an Xbox, or a student could carry their family Sky package with them to university. In an age where the web is of growing importance, apps such as this mark a sea-change, and expand Sky’s reach beyond the satellite dish.
Christmas is a time for giving, and the folks down at mobile phone comparison website Recombu have taken this literally, by offering up a bounty of prizes in their Christmas competition. One lucky winner will win a MacBook Air, Xbox 360, HTC Desire, Logitech Squeezebox and a Three MiFi, and the best thing is you can do it on twitter. Two runners up will also win a Three MiFi each.To be in with a chance to win these great prizes simply tweet the following sentence:”I want to win a MacBook Air, Xbox 360, Three MiFi and more! http://bit.ly/hEfKaV from @recombu and #Three for a very #ThreeMiFiChristmas”Or alternatively go to the Recombu competition page and click on the ‘Enter Competition’ button; this will take you to the Twitter home page and after you log in the sentence will automatically be ready to tweet out.The competition will run till the end of 2010 and the winners will be announced in January 2011; you must be a resident of the UK to enter.
Microsoft not only impressed everyone with their new Kinect motion sensor controller for the Xbox 360 (formally known as project Natal), but also revealed a newly designed version of their Xbox 360 console. Simply known as the New Xbox 360, this console boasts a new sleeker gloss black finish with chrome edges and a massive 250GB hard drive.The gloss black case now has touch sensitive buttons to turn the console on and eject discs which all add to the design, but the best news is that the New Xbox 360 is a lot quieter than the original system thanks to a low-RPM fan and the whole box is smaller too.Another great feature of the New Xbox 360 is that it comes with built-in Wi-Fi, meaning that you don’t have to spend an extra £60 to buy the Microsoft dongle. There is also an integrated Kinect socket on the back which controls the sensor and power simultaneously (owners of the original Xbox 360 will have to use a USB socket and separate power adaptor).The New Xbox 360 is set to replace the current Elite system, so we would expect it to be around the same price. Microsoft has also stated that the Arcade system will be discontinued as well meaning that there may be a slightly cheaper version with a smaller hard drive.
After a string of leaks over the past few weeks, Microsoft finally unveiled its new motion sensing controller at the E3 Conference in Los Angeles. Code named Project Natal, the new system is a hands-free controller which uses face and motion recognition to allow users to play games and navigate through the Xbox 360’s menus.World famous film director Steven Spielberg was present at the Project Natal launch and after seeing the demonstration commented that, “the main barrier stopping people getting into video games was the complexity of a games controller”, adding that Natal was “a window into what the future holds”. Although the Project Natal development is still in its early stages, Microsoft has sent out prototypes of the device to the top games developers, which Microsoft hopes will start to use the controller to create the next generation of motion controlled games.During the Microsoft conference, they also announced 10 new Xbox 360 games including the widely anticipated Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Beatles Rock Band Edition and Tony Hawks Ride.Tony Hawk Ride also adds another peripheral to the Xbox 360, a skateboard controller that is similar to the Nintendo Wii Balance Board, which allows players to grind rails and do tricks as if on a real skateboard.
Microsoft has announced that it will be extending its three year warranties for the Xbox 360. The warranty already covers the Red Ring of Death (RRoD) errors that have plagued the console since its launch and will now cover a new ‘E74’ error experienced by some users.The extended warranties have already cost Microsoft an estimated $1 billion in repair bill so far and further reinforces that Microsoft are still struggling with the Xbox 360’s hardware. A statement released by Microsoft states that; “While the majority of Xbox 360 owners continue to have a great experience with their console, we are aware that a very small percentage of our customers have reported receiving an error that displays “E74” on their screen. After investigating the issue, we have determined that the E74 error message can indicate the general hardware failure that is associated with three flashing red lights error on the console.”Anyone who experiences the E74 error will now be able to get their console repaired for free, although it will still take around two weeks and users who have already paid for the E74 error repair will receive a full refund within the next 4 to 12 weeks.
Leading UK retailer of PC and Video games GAME has announced that it will be launching a game rental service on its website. The new service, which is similar to online movie rentals, will allow avid game players to borrow up to 2 games at a time for a monthly fee.
Microsoft has release a rival to Playstation’s hugely popular karaoke Singstar game. Called Lips, this new game is similar to the Singstar franchise in that players sing their favourite tunes and score points for mimicking their idols; the closer to the original vocal the more points are scored. The Lips game come complete with two microphones, but unlike the Playstation offering, these microphones are wireless so you have the freedom to move around when singing. There are also 40 tracks to choose from in a wide range of genres including Coldplay, Duffy, Destiny’s Child and Kaiser Chiefs as well as more songs on Xbox LIVE to buy and download. There are various modes in the game, which allow you to sing on your own, with a friend or compete with other players. Up to 4 players can play using both the microphones and standard controllers, which are used to provide percussion to the track; the closer you are to the beat the more points you will receive. Lips is bound to be a big hit this Christmas, and the bonus of adding percussion and the motion sensor wireless microphones will provide hours of fun for the whole family.
With Grand Theft Auto IV hot of the press everyone seems to have got there copies if they pre-ordered, we quickly checked eBay earlier with copies selling for around £65, not bad if you bought 2 copies you’ve made a nice quick little profit.