Whatever you think of Microsoft's gimmicky Fun Labs creations for Kinect, at least there's a reason to turn on your Kinect and do something with it, right? That's not even a serious dig at Kinect, a device I find pretty fascinatingly, only the truth about my own experience with the device. Child of Eden and Fun Labs arrived basically back-to-back, giving me a reason to search through a moving box for the plug again.
Upon learning that Microsoft's taking votes on which Fun Labs creations to release next, I shot the company a few questions about how it's handling this new category on the marketplace.
It's crazy that Microsoft wasn't better prepared to take advantage of the hacker community soon after launch, which would have provided early adopters with plenty of ridiculous, if one-off, reasons to mess around with Kinect.
Fun Labs launched the same day as Microsoft's press conference last month with several experiments, including Bobble Head, Kinect Me, Googly Eyes and Build a Buddy. You may or may not have seen Jeff and I demonstrating a bunch of these on Happy Hour a few weeks back to horrific results. What Kinect thinks it sees is often not reality, the stuff of nightmares.
"The launch Gadgets are the result of a combination of developers, curated by Good Science," explained Microsoft Games Studios studio manager Shannon Loftis over email. "Future Gadgets will be drawn from a variety of sources, including game developers, university student developers and the Kinect Community. We’ve been blown away with what the Kinect community has created and want to offer them a platform for development that will encourage innovation for the interactive entertainment industry."
Good Science is the same studio who worked on the launch title Kinect Adventures.
Most likely, if you want to be noticed by Microsoft, you'll want to utilize the recent Kinect software development kit. You can't access all of the Kinect goodies that way, but as they're the official tools, so it goes.
Loftis told me there will be regular updates to Fun Labs starting this month. Voting concludes today on the next release. The lineup includes Virtual Conductor, Keyboard Anywhere, Kinect Body Art, Hand Puppets, Digital Pin Art and Music Visualizer, all of which look appropriately ridiculous for what Kinect seems to be most useful for with friends.
One of the limitations of Fun Labs is, ironically, sharing. You can share your creations with various social networks through KinectShare.com, but whatever you make inside the Fun Labs cannot be imported into other games or other parts of Xbox Live. The Avatar you make through Kinect Me, which scans users and creates (or attempts to, anyway) an Avatar, cannot be used elsewhere. Loftis dodged an answer on whether this could change in the future.
"We want people to be able to use their creations however they want," she said, before reiterating how KinectShare.com interfaces with existing networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Some of the innovations happening in the hacker community are pretty amazing, too, as chronicled by websites like KinectHacks.net. It's easy to imagine how some creations that come out of Fun Labs might have interesting applications to game development, and while Loftis wasn't willing to explicitly say these Fun Labs creations would become part of the Kinect toolset available to developers, it definitely sounds like something Microsoft has thought about.
"The motivation behind Kinect Fun Labs is our way of providing a platform for the Kinect Community to showcase the innovative ways they are using Kinect technology," she said. "What you see today in Kinect Fun Labs Gadgets will also fuel the next wave of Kinect full titles. We are working closely with Kinect game developers to make sure they have what they want from the rapidly-expanding Kinect feature set."
Look for the next wave of Fun Labs later this month.