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Kinect Died in the Uncanny Valley

It's not over for Kinect on Xbox One, but how we reached this moment might have been signaled a long, long time ago.

If Kinect suffers a slow death because of this week's news, it won't be Kinect's fault.

No Caption Provided

With Microsoft's announcement that consumers can now purchase Xbox One without a Kinect bundled in every package, it hasn't killed the device's prospects, but it's certainly tempered them. Fantasia is looking pretty great, and I suspect we'll see some other Kinect games at next month's E3.

But the news bums me out. I've always liked Kinect, warts 'n all. Most of Kinect's problems haven't been the result of shoddy technology. It's because designers keep asking the technology to accomplish tasks it's not very good at, and would likely never be very good at. This is partially Microsoft's fault. It planted the wrong seeds into the minds of developers, and only a few realized Microsoft was sending the wrong message as soon as the product was announced.

I was an early champion of the Wii, and the same was true for Kinect. I've spent years playing games with controllers, but the concept of interacting with games on a physical level, echoing a large part of my youth, has always been a tantalizing prospect. In the past 10 years, it seemed like games were heading in that direction.

Let's rewind to the original announcement for Kinect, back when it was called Project Natal in 2009. This was the same year director Steven Spielberg came on stage to tell us how excited he was about gaming.

There are several theoretical uses for Kinect in this video: becoming a kung-fu master, piloting a steering wheel in a race car, swinging a monster's arms around while destroying a city, fully controlling a soccer player, riding a skateboard, hitting an imaginary button in a game show. There's a common thread between these ideas, and it's that Kinect can replicate reality. There's one-to-one interaction between player and technology.

Microsoft's premise argues motion control can replace the controllers that we're used to. The subtext is that controllers, compared to Kinect, are an inferior form of interaction. The company's "you are the controller" message underscored this. In reality, Microsoft had it backwards. Motion control technology, at least as it exists now and for the foreseeable future, is not great at replacing what controllers are good at, but it's fantastic at replicating a form of reality. Only a few developers actually realized this was the true potential behind Kinect.

I'd call this the uncanny valley problem in motion control form.

The uncanny valley is when technology is able to almost mimic reality. You know, like this:

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Hold me.

When Project Natal became Kinect in 2010 and Microsoft unveiled the first wave of games to use the hardware, there was a clear standout: Dance Central. It's easy to credit some of the runaway success Kinect experienced (more than 24 million units sold as an accessory--not bad at all) to Harmonix's dancing game. Dance Central wasn't about mimicking reality. It's easy to imagine another developer making a dance game using a camera capable of tracking your skeleton would have your dance moves replicated on-screen. Dance Central smartly took Kinect's limitations at face value and found a way to leverage what it was capable of.

We already have a pretty good idea how that might have turned out:

Compare that to Wii Sports from a few years earlier, an inspiration for Kinect. I didn't love playing tennis or bowling because the motion fidelity in Wii Sports realistically recreated what it was based on, I loved them because in a very video game-y way, it approximated the experience in the pursuit of fun. It felt like tennis and bowling. Wii Sports may have been designed that way due to technological limitations, but it was a better experience. The march of technology can often blind us to the advantages of having rules and barriers.

Johann Sebastian Joust designer Doug Wilson was talking about this on Twitter recently:

[1/2] Bummed to see people /celebrate/ the death of Kinect. Yes, Microsoft botched it massively, but physical play is important, and fun.

— Douglas Wilson (@doougle) May 13, 2014

[2/2] For example: Dance Dance Revolution remains one of *the* most flat-out FUN games ever made. Still so hungry for those kinds of games.

— Douglas Wilson (@doougle) May 13, 2014

[1/2] Also, if you're looking for "higher fidelity tech" to rescue motion control gaming, you fundamentally misunderstand physical play.

— Douglas Wilson (@doougle) May 14, 2014

[2/2] The core problem w/ the Kinect was NOT the tech itself, but a lack of studios who "got" how to subvert the constraints.

— Douglas Wilson (@doougle) May 14, 2014

Microsoft wanted Kinect to be something more than it was. It overpromised. Developers didn't course correct and take advantage of Kinect's strengths, they kept playing into its flaws. This developed into a narrative that Kinect was flawed. While I won't argue it's perfect, the problems have more to do with how it was used.

One of Kinect's most promising moments on Xbox 360 was Double Fine's Happy Action Theater. You know what Happy Action Theater does? It doesn't give a shit about Kinect's inability to properly track you. Instead, the designers incorporated the fuzzy nature of the technology into the aesthetic, and encouraged players to be subversive through design. Happy Action Theater relishes and indulges in Kinect's quirks.

It should have signaled a new way forward with designing Kinect games on Xbox One. Embrace what the device is, rather than pretending it's something else. Instead, Microsoft decided it would try the same thing all over again. See: Kinect Sports Rivals, which seemingly came and went without anyone taking notice.

At least we got this out of it.

It's not a huge surprise AAA game developers would target realism over and over again. We see that all the time in genres that have nothing to do with motion controls. What's more frustrating is how little Microsoft allowed independent creators to go wild with Kinect. Imagine if Microsoft had opened up Kinect to its independent scene on Xbox Live Indie Games. Imagine if Microsoft tried to do something like that with Kinect Fun Labs, a failed experiment almost nobody remembers because, once again, Kinect was exclusive to bigger developers. Imagine if Microsoft had created a publishing fund that encouraged creatives to try their hands at Kinect development. Instead, we were mostly left with what Microsoft backed and lots of fitness games.

Imagine.

We've seen people do amazing things with Kinect. How come none of this creativity translated to games?

Based on the conversations I've had with developers over the years, it's not for lack of trying. There were evangelists within the company who wanted to see Kinect achieve more, developers who wanted o try, but there was a very specific vision for what Kinect should be, and being more "open" wasn't part of that.

There's little surprise, then, that the most inventive use of Kinect in years, Fru, came from an independent developer. In Fru, players use their body to unmask hidden platforms, and use a controller to move a character around. Like Happy Action Theater, it's not concerned with absolute accuracy and embraces its imprecisions. The developers told me at GDC that they're building a new version for Kinect on Xbox One. Microsoft's takeaway should be to find ways to generate way awesome experiments like this. There's no sign of that.

It's sad. It's really sad. And that's without acknowledging how Microsoft has systematically dismantled almost every piece of its new hardware platform that was supposed to make it different. I don't know what the future holds for Kinect, but accessories in games don't have a particularly great track record, and it's not like Kinect on Xbox One has been at the center of the conversation around Microsoft's new machine. I suspect it will continue to be part of the interface, and we'll see some token games funded by Microsoft a few times per year.

It's probably too late now, but it's nice to dream. It could have been different.

Sorry, Kinect. It wasn't your fault.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
190 CommentsRefresh

Avatar image for amafi
Posted By amafi

If the product can't remain relevant without being forced on people who don't want it, then it shouldn't exist. Pretty simple.

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Edited By egg

Wii was the best for motion controls for two reasons. 1) Nintendo seemed to be more in tune with its limitations than MS is. 2) Tons of third parties doing things with it, lots of experimentation and every now and then something sticks.

It's a shame that MS limited Kinect to big companies only. Hearing it makes me rather repulsed in a way.

It's a shame that MS is killing (or losing confidence in) Kinect but then again even Nintendo nixed motion controls so there's no use in singling out MS.

Avatar image for iamstilbon
Posted By iamStilbon

I truly feel that E3 2013 was the death nail for the Kinect. And Microsoft has no one to blame but themselves.

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Posted By RipMurdock

Depressing spin for sure. Still, a most likely outcome.

Avatar image for extomar
Edited By EXTomar

Love the experts here quibbling. Did you know that philosophers have noticed this issue from Aristotle's time (and Aristotle was rarely correct about anything)? He certainly wasn't talking about robots or computer animation or any of that but recognized how "falseness" comes through when it strives but not quite reaches the "perfection" of reality.

But hey, according to you guys this observation and instinctual sense about aesthetics has nothing to do with your fine hair splitting.

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Posted By IcyEyes

@griffinmills: @grantheaslip: @mikevszoda: @ghostiet: @carlosthedwarf: @grantheaslip: @extomar: @fontelroy: @rowr: @grantheaslip: @jman240:

Sorry Patrick, but this article headline is nothing but Ill-informed click bait.

The Uncanny Valley is not merely technology trying to replicate reality. It's about the effects on the human psyche when something is too realistic to be abstract, but not realistic enough to be completely convincing. Therefore making you feel uncomfortable since your brain realizes something is off. This is the Uncanny Valley, and It has absolutely nothing to do with the issues of Kinect'.

It actually does, in that it it the same type of phenomenon applied to kinesthetic and spatial perceptions rather than purely visual perceptions. Here's a better explanation: Extra Credits: Kinect Disconnect

@metalsnakezero

The extra credits' "Kinesthetic projection" theory is dumb. Their suggesting that more "realistic" controls can disturb people? Frustrate and enrage yes, but freakout? No. It's more an issue with proprioception and kinetic feedback. You can't just go and apply the Uncanny Valley concept to everything. That's pure stupidity.

@patrickklepek said:

If Kinect suffers a slow death because of this week's news, it won't be Kinect's fault.

It's not as simple as that. It's true that compelling software is key, but if developers can't create compelling experiences due to the nature of Kinect. Then it is, at least partly Kinect's fault.

It's very easy to say it's the developers fault and not the hardware. That argument has been used for the Wii U too, but only the developers really understand the capabilities of the hardware. This attitude makes the whole article feel a bit bias.

I would agree the developers need to approach developing for Kinect differently. It's much the same approach developers have already taken to virtual-reality. It has to be treated as its own platform and therefore approached in its own unique way.

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Edited By jasondesante

in between xbox 360 having some of the best lineups in gaming history in 2012 and 2013 I was excited for the xbox one. They reversed their policy on digital rights and stopped selling the xbox one with kinect being mandatory. They are doing what people want. Delivering large lists of great games like they did the last few years on 360 and showing people the change they want for the future.

If you didn't get the sarcasm, I'm talking about nothing. No games and no change. Microsoft. Fuck you.

and then people insult the wii u gamepad like its a joke when one of the best games I've played in my entire life is The Wonderful 101, and uses the gamepad in great ways! :D

Avatar image for willylo
Posted By willylo

Great Article! I was so hopeful for the Kinect to be something big and revolutionary to gaming and while it was a neat concept it just failed in practice.

After hearing about the UI revamp and the kinect less sku for the XBONE, I have since traded in my kinect 2.0 since I see little support for the device from now on.

The stuff people have been able to do on the PC side with the kinect though have been pretty rad.

Avatar image for griffinmills
Posted By Griffinmills

@grantheaslip: I think the reason the argument keeps running in circles and you keep having to correct people on the usage of uncanny valley is that, yes, it is being used to describe the wrong phenomenon, and yes, you're pointing that out and telling people what that term should be used to describe, but you're not providing the correct term for the phenomenon Patrick Klepek, the Extra Credits guys, and anyone else misusing uncanny valley with regards to Kinect are trying to describe. If there is distinct term for "close to normal human motions but just not close enough to not be uncomfortable" the same way that uncanny valley describes "close to looking like a human but just not close enough to not be uncomfortable", it's likely that people either don't know what that term is or that it simply doesn't exist. If it does exist, please let us know ('cause frankly I'd appreciate knowing too, I don't like having to use the wrong term due to my lack of vocabulary), and if it truly doesn't, then well...what term would you suggest?

The whole thing reminds me (to use an odd example off the top of my head) of people who get upset by people who use the term rogue-like to describe games whose levels are randomly/procedurally-generated, have permadeath, etc etc, but really aren't that much like the original Rogue besides some vague, general features. That seems to be giving rise to odd terms like Rogue-like-like or Rogue-Lite, so what might we call the "Uncanny Valley of Motion Control" so as to not set off any alarms in the same way?

I think you're spot on with the rogue-like analogy. Mostly because I came to the same line of thought myself. I'm glad someone else has already posited the theory so I don't have to. =) Or maybe we should all go analogy crazy and start "stabbing" people with bullets because, hey, close enough! (I kid!)

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Posted By lavaman77

About time. Kinect is horrid.

Avatar image for clush
Posted By clush

I was an early champion of the Wii, and the same was true for Kinect. I've spent years playing games with controllers, but the concept of interacting with games on a physical level, echoing a large part of my youth, has always been a tantalizing prospect. In the past 10 years, it seemed like games were heading in that direction.

I don't think enough people feel this way to really support Kinect as a platform. At least the Wii had WiiSports, but that bunch of bundled in gimmicks has never really been matched (let alone surpassed) gameplay/fun wise.

The kinect doesn't even have that... I honestly can't think of a single Kinect game I would be interested in playing.

As far as motion controlled games go, I think they had a fair chance. Bottomline is that apart from WiiSports, motion control just hasn't delivered. It's just not that good. You can blame the tech, you can blame the devs... you can blame anything you want. I do feel, though, if it really had potential at least some of that would've surfaced.

People tried it and didn't like it. Fair enough, let's move on.

Avatar image for vigorousjammer
Posted By Vigorousjammer

I would have REALLY loved to see that kinect VR stuff implemented into some first-person games. I mean, just think about how awesome it would be to physically peek around a corner in a stealth game, even if you still ended up controlling the character movement with a controller.

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Posted By Smorlock

@mr_creeper: But it's not meant to replace anything. It's an entirely different control interface meant for entirely different experiences.

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Posted By spraynardtatum

@monkeyking1969: Absolutely. And by adding a camera to it they forced the microphone to sit directly next to another audio source that gets in the way of its ability to hear what it needs to.

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Posted By MonkeyKing1969

The problem with Kinect for Microsoft is simple...dead simple...the wrong device for the wrong use.

The problem with Kinect is that 50% of what this improved Kinect was supposed to do for Xbox One could have been done with a 50 cent microphone. Voice commands? Hello all they needed for that was a damn microphone or two microphones and two chips...a few bucks of parts.

Now, think about what MS has that uses Kinect, think about it. Now think about what sorts of functionality MS has stressed in conferences, promoted on stage in the past year. Most of what MS has doing with Kinect, most of what they stress is voice commands...again a function a few cents microphone could have done. Sure half the functionality of Kinect is visual, but so far 70% of the stressed features are audio. They put a $100 device ($30 in parts???) to do what could have been done very well by two microphones and a few chips that would cost $6.

Sure, if the kinetic movement games had been stressed or is they talked about 'swiping' menus as much as they stressed voice commands it would be different. But lets be clear what the camera does right now is pretty low down the list, and the last year of use and discussion about Kinect has been about voice. If MS had any interest in using Kinect it would be another story, but so far it look like they were really pushing voice as a feature without thinking, "Wait...we don't need this camera to do any of that."

MS bureaucracy grabbed Kinect as something to push, they put all sorts of functionality on it, they one functionality everyone felt worked good and was cool was voice, but they bureaucracy kept pushing the WHOLE Kinect. I'm sure there were entire months of meeting where not once was camera functionality or kinetic movement discussed yet Kinect just as a stupidly expensive microphone was in front of them.

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Posted By PrarieD0G

Loved the article. It's nice to see someone not just bashing kinect for a change and giving its lack of success some thought. I hadn't even thought of it myself to be honest, but I agree with your points! Good analysis, haha. This is what video game "journalism" should be.

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Edited By Honkalot

I think the problem is that it, Kinect, or any voice / gesture interface needs to be god damn near perfect for people to be willing to use it. If it works 9 times out of 10 that is still not enough. It's a tall order. But I'm happy Microsoft have furthered the technology, obviously the new Kinect is an improvement.

Avatar image for jakob187
Posted By jakob187

I've always hated that people made out like Kinect didn't have any good games on it. Between Gunslinger, Fru, Happy Action Theater, and a handful of others, there were good games to be had. They weren't incredibly lengthy experiences, but they were SOLID experiences. It really DOES come down to the developers. From Software got too ambitious with Steel Battalion (but with the legacy of the franchise, it seems like it's right in the same alley anyways), and it could've been awesome. Unfortunately, they didn't keep their reality and expectations in check.

No one did.

Moreover, the actual basic application of using Kinect through both body recognition and voice command is STILL very much viable. Microsoft just needs to open the damn thing up, offer an "app" store for it, and let people develop shit. I guarantee you that someone will find a way to turn that thing into the remote you never need to worry about losing for all your media center needs, or even a way for you to communicate miles away face-to-face, much the same way we already do with video conferencing software, Skype, and FaceTime. Hell, you could even find an app that someone has made where you can make your own little movie, then set up special effects through an interface with the Kinect.

If anything, I guess I see the Kinect (personally) as less of a FOR GAMES piece of hardware and more as a FOR CREATIVITY piece of hardware. It's something that Microsoft should be pushing as an EXTENSION of their feature set. Instead of focusing on games, focus on giving people this tool for creative capability!

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Edited By JonDo

I mean, physical play in this sense is definitely a good thing, and something I would be interested in -- the main thing for me is having a camera and mic running in my house 24/7 on an internet enabled device. I know I'm paranoid, but I can't be the only non-psychopath whose privacy concerns cause this to give "red flags". I didn't even like this aspect of having a smartphone around.

When I see a piece of technology, one of the first things I think of is how it could be compromised. I'm not a security expert, but it's not like I'm saying NOONE should have these things around. It's more weird to me that noone even considers this aspect.

It's not like I'm all up in arms about how the Kinect is a "tool of the blue helmet elites" or anything, it's just like... noone even thought of this? It's cool if you don't care, I'm not saying you should... but I don't think it's wrong for my privacy concerns to cause me to be creeped out.

I guess what I'm saying to me is that when I look at it like this it's like there's a lot of people who just don't value privacy. "Who cares?" or "You're nuts for worrying about this" don't seem like legitimate answers to me.

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Posted By Korolev

The problem with Kinect is that it's just too far ahead of its time. The concept is great and what they have managed to achieve with it is impressive... it just isn't a good way of controlling games. It's too early for it to be used for that. Kinect, honestly, needs about another 5 or even 10 years for it to do what we were promised it could do.

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Posted By Mr_Creeper

It is what it is. In Kinect's current state, it's unable to replace the controller or mouse and keyboard, so it's useless to gamers. There are tons of other applications for it, but until something comes along that's better than those two things, it's kinda' assed-out.

Avatar image for mezwaan
Posted By MEZwaan
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Even Microsoft's tagline "you are the controller" echoes the intro of the PS2 Eye "...no need to pick up a controller. You are the controls". Greatest intro ever.

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Edited By ptys

I don't think forcing people to buy a Kinect is going to help its success. They have to once again sell it to the public, now under the shadow of its somewhat disappointing predecessor.

(btw theres a typo "developers who wanted o try, but"). Nice article.

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Posted By wewantsthering

@caesius6 said:

@wewantsthering: That was his point, that they played to it's strengths and weaknesses, rather than attempting to make water out of wine.

My point is that they still weren't that great! The best examples were only good when you had a group of drunk friends. Haha.

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Posted By Vitalogy11

I'm sure this will be buried but I'm a weird example. I really only turn on my 360 to use Kinect or it's features. It's almost a staple of our living room.

I use it to work out several times a week (well month), when we have guest over it almost always comes out for Fruit Ninja, bowling/table tennis, dance central.

Video chat with family on holidays and we use voice commands on movie nights. (when not watching Blu-ray).

When I do my "real" gaming it's in my PC room, on my PC/PS4/Ps3, with lights down low and headphones cranked.

If/When I get an Xbox1, I think I still want/need the Kinect.

Avatar image for extomar
Edited By EXTomar

@grantheaslip said:

@extomar said:

@grantheaslip said:

@extomar said:

As repeated a couple of times: Mimicking running in place to tell a game "I am running" or hopping in the air to tell a game "I am jumping" is the definition of "uncanny valley". The more closely one tries to mimic running and jumping for a game without actually running or jumping, even with the game showing all indications you are running fast and jumping over stuff, the more you instinctively know you really aren't running or jumping over anything.

No, it's not. I hate to keep on harping on this, because I do totally get what Patrick's getting at with the analogy, but the uncanny valley is a very specific concept and this doesn't fall within it.

You mean the concept where something starts off as "unrealistic" and is acceptable but as it gets closer to "realistic" it hits a point that it becomes disturbing in how unrealistic it is? That seems to fit "running in place to tell a computer that I want the character to run" really well.

Let me spell it out for you: Hitting a button or pushing a stick forward are not very realistic but completely acceptable to players as a "make the character run forward". On the other hand standing up and starting to move your legs approximating how running really works starts to add to the odd feeling because your body knows what it is really like to be running and you aren't doing it.

Another example: DDR is a game that you stomp around on a pad in time to a song that presents a character dancing for you. On the other hand, Dance Central has you trying to mime and mimic real dance moves. Watching someone playing DDR well looks like they are playing an energetic game while watching someone playing Dance Central well looks like they are trying to awkwardly dance.

I'm having no trouble understanding what you're saying. What I'm saying is that the Uncanny Valley is "a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some human observers." It doesn't refer to any valley near the limit of an equation, it refers to this one.

Lets do a simple example because you can't seem to get the issue: A game of Frisbee(tm).

- Having a game with a controller button that is "throw the Frisbee" is acceptable because "push Button A" is complete divorced and unrelated to the real world activity of throwing a Frisbee.

- Having a game with motion controls where you need to mimic the action of throwing a Frisbee to tell the game "throw the Frisbee" is highly uncanny valley because you don't have a Frisbee, you aren't really throwing it if you did, and you get none of the feedback you normally would if you were really throwing a Frisbee. So spell it out directly: Trying to achieve realistic human action caused a break down in immersion.

- Going outside with a real Frisbee and throwing it around with people is acceptable because people have a lot of instinctual experience about it works from the flight of the disk to how it sounds and feels.

If you can't see where "the valley" is here spelled or why it is "uncanny" then I'm not sure what to tell you.

Avatar image for tyrrael
Posted By Tyrrael

@caesius6 said:

@davekap said:

If Kinect suffers a slow death because of this week's news, it won't be Kinect's fault.

I cannot agree with this statement at all. Leveraging the Kinect correctly made for a fun experience, yes, but only momentarily. It never made for a long-lasting, deep, engrossing experience. It never made for the kind of entertainment that normal controller-driven gaming gave. Maybe it was never supposed to, maybe it never should have, but if that were true then the Kinect and its resulting games shouldn't have been priced any higher than the 10 dollar toys they were. Those demos linked? Those are fun for minutes, not hours. And if the Kinect was supposed to deliver that strong, long-lasting entertainment value, then it would need to have been built better with higher fidelity and zero latency issues. Either way I look at it, it's Kinect's and Microsoft's fault.

You're looking at this entire thing subjectively whereas Patrick is taking an objective approach.

Whether you can see it or not, (or want to see it, or not) the device had potential. It just wasn't implemented correctly.

I'm not trying to sound like a jerk, but I must respectfully disagree. The idea of the Kinect has potential. Being the controller and controlling the games with your own motions is a very interesting idea and could be revolutionary, and not only open the door for new great games, but also maybe other uses. Minority Report, anyone? And yes, I've seen the hacks. However, the innate limitations of the device are more of a problem than anything else, even in the very interesting example I just stated. It sounds like the potential you're speaking of is not necessarily from this specific device but from the functionality the device was supposed to bring to the table but didn't, because given the technological limitations, it simply couldn't, or at least not to the scope and scale that Microsoft was boasting. Although, even if Microsoft hadn't done this, you would still have to get past the limitations of the device itself, which apparently, isn't as easy as everyone who defends it seems to think.

Avatar image for grantheaslip
Posted By GrantHeaslip

@mikevszoda: I pretty much agree with you and the earlier poster who made a similar point, and I was willing to leave it at that. It was @EXTomar patronizingly declaring that Kinect controls were the "definition" of uncanny valley that set me back off. It's one thing to use a term incorrectly in a colloquial sense that most people understand implicitly. It's another to explicitly define the term incorrectly, which is also what bugged me about the original article.

Avatar image for supersonic4336
Posted By supersonic4336

Look at Baller Beats. Insanely fun and ground breaking in the right environment but mostly impractical. That's the Kinect in a nutshell. A couple people managed to make great products that understood it's limitations. At some point though, if the market doesn't fill out to have that device reach a good enough critical mass, it won't be worth making anything for it financially. Awesome hackers and small teams will still make cool stuff for it but the big budget stuff is as good as gone with this announcement.

Avatar image for caesius6
Posted By caesius6

@davekap said:

If Kinect suffers a slow death because of this week's news, it won't be Kinect's fault.

I cannot agree with this statement at all. Leveraging the Kinect correctly made for a fun experience, yes, but only momentarily. It never made for a long-lasting, deep, engrossing experience. It never made for the kind of entertainment that normal controller-driven gaming gave. Maybe it was never supposed to, maybe it never should have, but if that were true then the Kinect and its resulting games shouldn't have been priced any higher than the 10 dollar toys they were. Those demos linked? Those are fun for minutes, not hours. And if the Kinect was supposed to deliver that strong, long-lasting entertainment value, then it would need to have been built better with higher fidelity and zero latency issues. Either way I look at it, it's Kinect's and Microsoft's fault.

You're looking at this entire thing subjectively whereas Patrick is taking an objective approach.

Whether you can see it or not, (or want to see it, or not) the device had potential. It just wasn't implemented correctly.

Avatar image for yukoasho
Posted By yukoasho

@mcfart said:

Microsoft made the same mistakes Nintendo made when trying to market the Wii U "Gamepad". MS gave NO reasons to include the Kinect; 6 months after the Xbone release and there's no games that show off why the new Kinect is worth it. Like Nintendo, MS needed that "Wii Sports" to show off the Kinect's capabilities. As of now, it's just a novelty that Patrick is a little too attracted to lol.

Spot the hell on.

Microsoft and Sony developed the Kinect and Move to jump on the Wii motion bandwagon, not realizing that the wagon wheels were falling apart and people had stopped giving a crap about motion controls, while Nintendo fashioned the GamePad as a cynical attempt to appeal to the tablet trend that replaced motion controls in the non-gamer mindset. In the case of all three controllers, there was never a thought as to why this needed to be made. No thought as to who this would cater to, other than the poisonous fallacy that it would be for "everyone."

The Move was never anything other than a cynical Wii ripoff, and its only contribution to broader gaming was that the tech would be integrated into DualShock 4. The GamePad is a noose around Nintendo's neck, as they keep floundering to find a gimmick to hook people in. And now, Microsoft is sending the Kinect off quietly into the night. Hopefully, these three failures will signal an end to thoughtless gimmicks in the gaming marketplace, but I know full well that the Wii's legacy will always lure people with more money than sense into thinking they can catch the next big "mainstream" hit. We're already seeing it with VR - pointless technology, little more than technological masturbation that's going to fail when the time comes to actually explain why it needs to exist. Just another solution looking for a problem.

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Posted By caesius6

@wewantsthering: That was his point, that they played to it's strengths and weaknesses, rather than attempting to make water out of wine.

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Posted By MikevsZoda

@grantheaslip: I think the reason the argument keeps running in circles and you keep having to correct people on the usage of uncanny valley is that, yes, it is being used to describe the wrong phenomenon, and yes, you're pointing that out and telling people what that term should be used to describe, but you're not providing the correct term for the phenomenon Patrick Klepek, the Extra Credits guys, and anyone else misusing uncanny valley with regards to Kinect are trying to describe. If there is distinct term for "close to normal human motions but just not close enough to not be uncomfortable" the same way that uncanny valley describes "close to looking like a human but just not close enough to not be uncomfortable", it's likely that people either don't know what that term is or that it simply doesn't exist. If it does exist, please let us know ('cause frankly I'd appreciate knowing too, I don't like having to use the wrong term due to my lack of vocabulary), and if it truly doesn't, then well...what term would you suggest?

The whole thing reminds me (to use an odd example off the top of my head) of people who get upset by people who use the term rogue-like to describe games whose levels are randomly/procedurally-generated, have permadeath, etc etc, but really aren't that much like the original Rogue besides some vague, general features. That seems to be giving rise to odd terms like Rogue-like-like or Rogue-Lite, so what might we call the "Uncanny Valley of Motion Control" so as to not set off any alarms in the same way?

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Posted By Tyrrael

The unfortunate problem is that people seem to always fall into the same trap when defending the Kinect. That is, they rarely, if ever, talk about the tech's strengths, and make it all about overcoming it's faults, which are considerable. This is the problem with Kinect. It doesn't really have any outright really strong strengths to play to. Normally it's about focusing on the less terrible aspects to draw attention away from the larger issues. When the primary argument for something is, "It's not that bad." or something to that effect, it is not a good thing. Even Patrick did this in the article. It's all about overcoming the considerable shortcomings of the technology and making something that's essentially just passable. Like so many things, the idea of the Kinect is quite tantalizing, but the execution and, some may say, lies made by Microsoft about the device's functionality, are just too glaring to ignore. The bottom line is the Kinect is simply too inaccurate, too unresponsive and requires too much room for it to be at the forefront of the vast majority of people's gaming experience.

Also, on the final point, I have to respectfully disagree with you Mr. Klepek. It absolutely IS, at least partly, the Kinect's fault. Microsoft did do a terrible job in many aspects of the Kinect's release, but the fact of the matter is, the technology simply isn't and never was up to snuff. Even if Microsoft had done a better job, with the technology being the same, it would still have had the same laundry list of problems it does now. It simply doesn't seem logical to say that the only reason the Kinect isn't better is because Microsoft didn't market it very well to people or developers, to name a couple things the did wrong. The Kinect is still a faulty, semi-broken piece of hardware. Like I said earlier, the idea of being able to control games the way the Kinect promised, but ultimately failed on, is quite tantalizing indeed. However, the technology itself shows us we're simply not there yet.

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Posted By PanaMusica

My best Kinect 2.0 experience has been on Skype. While the folks on the other end were huddled around a Mac to get in view of its static camera, Kinect could see the whole room on our end and zoom in on the person speaking.

And for the record, Dance Masters > Dance Central.

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Posted By Asiwassaying

The problem Kinect, Wiimote and PSMove have is there is already an outside world where you can have a motion control experience, if you want to move your body to play a game you would probably rather do an actual physical activity. The only motion control that will work and revolutionnize everything will be virtual reality like The Matrix where you are plugged in and interact with it as you would with the real world.

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Posted By GrantHeaslip

@extomar said:

@grantheaslip said:

@extomar said:

As repeated a couple of times: Mimicking running in place to tell a game "I am running" or hopping in the air to tell a game "I am jumping" is the definition of "uncanny valley". The more closely one tries to mimic running and jumping for a game without actually running or jumping, even with the game showing all indications you are running fast and jumping over stuff, the more you instinctively know you really aren't running or jumping over anything.

No, it's not. I hate to keep on harping on this, because I do totally get what Patrick's getting at with the analogy, but the uncanny valley is a very specific concept and this doesn't fall within it.

You mean the concept where something starts off as "unrealistic" and is acceptable but as it gets closer to "realistic" it hits a point that it becomes disturbing in how unrealistic it is? That seems to fit "running in place to tell a computer that I want the character to run" really well.

Let me spell it out for you: Hitting a button or pushing a stick forward are not very realistic but completely acceptable to players as a "make the character run forward". On the other hand standing up and starting to move your legs approximating how running really works starts to add to the odd feeling because your body knows what it is really like to be running and you aren't doing it.

Another example: DDR is a game that you stomp around on a pad in time to a song that presents a character dancing for you. On the other hand, Dance Central has you trying to mime and mimic real dance moves. Watching someone playing DDR well looks like they are playing an energetic game while watching someone playing Dance Central well looks like they are trying to awkwardly dance.

I'm having no trouble understanding what you're saying. What I'm saying is that the Uncanny Valley is "a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some human observers." It doesn't refer to any valley near the limit of an equation, it refers to this one.

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Posted By Marcsman

Nice article.

As for me motion control cannot die quick enough.

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Edited By EXTomar

@grantheaslip said:

@extomar said:

As repeated a couple of times: Mimicking running in place to tell a game "I am running" or hopping in the air to tell a game "I am jumping" is the definition of "uncanny valley". The more closely one tries to mimic running and jumping for a game without actually running or jumping, even with the game showing all indications you are running fast and jumping over stuff, the more you instinctively know you really aren't running or jumping over anything.

No, it's not. I hate to keep on harping on this, because I do totally get what Patrick's getting at with the analogy, but the uncanny valley is a very specific concept and this doesn't fall within it.

You mean the concept where something starts off as "unrealistic" and is acceptable but as it gets closer to "realistic" it hits a point that it becomes disturbing in how unrealistic it is? That seems to fit "running in place to tell a computer that I want the character to run" really well.

Let me spell it out for you: Hitting a button or pushing a stick forward are not very realistic but completely acceptable to players as a "make the character run forward". On the other hand standing up and starting to move your legs approximating how running really works starts to add to the odd feeling because your body knows what it is really like to be running and you aren't doing it.

Another example: DDR is a game that you stomp around on a pad in time to a song that presents a character dancing for you. On the other hand, Dance Central has you trying to mime and mimic real dance moves. Watching someone playing DDR well looks like they are playing an energetic game while watching someone playing Dance Central well looks like they are trying to awkwardly dance.

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Edited By melodiousj

Patrick doesn't actually know what the uncanny valley is...

Is it a roguelike or a roguelike-like?

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Posted By CarlosTheDwarf

Patrick doesn't actually know what the uncanny valley is...

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Posted By GrantHeaslip

@extomar said:

As repeated a couple of times: Mimicking running in place to tell a game "I am running" or hopping in the air to tell a game "I am jumping" is the definition of "uncanny valley". The more closely one tries to mimic running and jumping for a game without actually running or jumping, even with the game showing all indications you are running fast and jumping over stuff, the more you instinctively know you really aren't running or jumping over anything.

No, it's not. I hate to keep on harping on this, because I do totally get what Patrick's getting at with the analogy, but the uncanny valley is a very specific concept and this doesn't fall within it.

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Posted By Regular_Kirk

@hailinel: BAM! His career is on the bottom of an avatars foot!