[You have selected: David Inkpen] Merry Xmas, one and all of Alex’s festive (synonym: drunk) readers. While you are inevitably sipping on some form of alcoholic beverage, waiting for Doctor Who to come on and playing with your new aquistitions from some distant relative you’d forgotten exists (and to whom you’re pretty sure you have no blood relation), I present to you my addition to this mighty blog. My topic is that which the lucky (or unlucky) ones of you will have unwrapped this morning and are currently wrapping your head around. Technology. 2010 has been a very interesting year for new tech and I will discuss but two of the newcomers to the field here on this, the 200th birthday of Alexandros Rhizos Rhankaves, Greek poet and statesman (d. 1892). First, Evil Corp. USA (aka Apple)’s flagship product – the infamous iPad. iPadWith prices starting at a lovingly overpriced £429, the iPad is literally nothing more than an oversized iPod Touch. Boasting the same processor, memory, storage capacity and operating system as the only difference between the two devices other than the £250 disparity in price (£499 for 32GB iPad vs. £249 for 32GB iPod Touch) is the fact that the iPad is missing the camera. Oh, and the size. Don’t listen to what people say: size does matter. It matters in the way that, for what is effectively a portable device, the iPad is extremely unportable. iPad users’ can often be found sitting on trains, cradling their love in one arm while trying to type website addresses on its non-haptic screen with one hand, or crouched over the table in front of them with the device laying flat. Contrary to what adverts may suggest, it is not a breeze to use but rather has the ergonomic ease of walking straight into a gale-force wind. Of course, you could always buy the keyboard for the iPad, creating a perfect stand for your device and allowing you to type with two hands. It’s the obvious accessory to buy your iPad-endowed friend. But in the end, you’re left thinking… haven’t I seen this before? You do have to hand it to Apple though; they have sparked a market for this kind of device. Not to be left behind, every electrical company under the planet (exaggeration) has produced their own emulation of the iPad. Nothing overly spectacular has come of this yet. This is still a product in its infancy, only time will tell if the campaign to get a tablet for every child will succeed or whether the skips of 2011 will be filled with Apple’s legacy. The Kinect“A-ha!” thought the evil scientists at Sony, “Nintendo will cower in our shadow for we have created a superior controller! Gone are the days of people only being able to play motion-controlled tennis games on the Wii! Once again, we will control the market!” “Oh shit” thought the evil scientists at Sony, when Microsoft announced Project Natal, which would later become the Kinect. The Kinect is the coolest thing to come out of the gaming sector in a long time. Sure it’s a little laggy, but who cares when it’s doing effectively what would people would be burned for witchcraft for not 10 years ago. Sure there’s no games that I would buy for it, but that’s not the point. The Kinect is what it is, and what it is, is what butter was to sliced bread. Sliced bread was good, it was great, it was the best thing ever. But it needed something more, just a small addition to make it that perfect complete package that we all know and love. Now, I’m not saying that the Xbox is sliced bread. Far from it. I’m saying computers are sliced bread (albeit sliced by a blind, dyspraxic hamster). The Kinect, thanks to the developers releasing a SDK for it, have given nerds everywhere a toy to play with. A toy which will help you, oh lowly user, do what you have dreamed of doing since 2002: So that’s it. Merry xmas and peas on earth (as the card to my cousin, with an image of some peas on a mound of soil, states). About the author: David Inkpen is a man with serious brandprejudices. Luckily, as far as this site is concerned,they are the right prejudices. Like Sam Lewis, heis a handsome member of The July Days. Unlike Mr.Lewis, he has his own, sadly undernourished, blog.
Game shows! Huh! What are they good for? …Playing around with exciting new games technology, apparently. In this case, Microsoft’s 360 gadget Kinect, which easily wins this year’s ‘hardest name to accurately remember’ award, having taken three attempts to type correctly and being mispronounced all weekend by my fellow attendees. But, then, silly names come with the territroy. Eh, Nintendo? Kinect is Microsoft taking a long, hard look at the future of gaming and, to paraphrase Doc Brown, saying: where we’re going, we don’t need controllers. Which is an interesting step on, conceptually, from the Wii, going beyond the removal of those fiddly buttons and sticks that put off the older generations and just straight-up waving goodbye to everything. What looks to be less of an interesting step forward is the games. On the show floor, you had:–The One That’s Definitely Not Wii Sports (Kinect Sports, which seems to be the only thing Rare are working on at the moment, oddly)–The Proof-of-Concept Minigames One (Kinect Adventures)–The Honest Guv It’s Not Mario Kart Racing One (Kinect Joyride)-…and a dancing game. It’s hardly inspirational, revolutionary stuff. Worse, there seemed to be a fundamental misunderstanding of what makes the Kinect attractive. I didn’t get to play Kinect Sports, but watching two people limply play table tennis it was pretty easy to see that removing the remotes from, let’s be frank, Wii Tennis doesn’t make it feel more natural. Having that weight in your hand helped people buy into the Wii experience. Meanwhile, the two Avatars (Mii-a-like cartoony representations of the player) flopped reluctantly along. It was, I suspect, an impressive use of the technology but it just served to reinforce the artificiality of the situation. The dancing game (Dance Central, to be specific, as according to Wikipedia it’s one of three dance games launching with the Kinect) suffered from the opposite problem. With one dancer representing both people busting moves in front of the camera, there didn’t seem to be any visual representation of what either player was doing, or not doing. But, perhaps I’m being unfair. I didn’t get to play either of these games myself. So let’s move on to what I did get my hands on. Um. Not that, err, there was anything to put your hands on… First: Kinect Joy Ride. It failed to play to any of the ‘no controller’ idea’s strengths, a problem inherent in the Kinect racing genre. Having no physical object to grab meant that when your steering went wrong, you had no indication of why. Were you grabbing this imaginary wheel in the wrong place? Had you steered too far in one direction? Was it that little sidestep you took ten seconds ago? No idea. I won the race, but didn’t come away feeling like I’d mastered anything. Which leaves Kinect Adventures. Stepping forward as the Kinect’s answer to Wii Play – which showed what could potentially be done with the technology in a series of (not very fun) minigames – it was surprisingly the best indication that this might all actually be worthwhile. To return to the eternal question of what makes the Kinect interesting, what its strengths are: it is as a gadget. That’s how it’s being sold, advertised in shop windows as Christmas’ hottest gadget. It exists as something to be filed alongside the iPads and 3D TVs of the world. The appeal is the idea of playing with sci-fi tech. The Minority Report feeling of flipping through menus floating in the air in front of you. So my first instinct was to play with it, see how it worked, and try to break it. Adventures offered the best chance to do that, with minigames focused on bending your body in the style of that BBC-adopted Japanese gameshow where people have to jump through Tetris-block shaped holes. This meant being able to test the admittedly quite impressive tech – what happens if I lift my leg? Ooh! Now what if? Ahh! – which wasn’t on show in any of the other games. The minigames themselves weren’t that brilliant but the novelty of testing the limits of something new can make up for that, as many early Wii games can attest. And so hilarity ensued: watching friends jump in the air and nearly batter a poor stranger over the head in the process. Some guy who decided to see if he could make his Avatar shoot a Nazi salute. Nearly falling over myself… That is what the Kinect needs to be. It remains to be seen whether the developers are actually going to realise that. (Likenesses of Mssrs David Inkpen and Geoff Maillard, esquire, used without any permission whatsoever. Sorry, guys.)