Well, now I am going to have to dig that long-unused Xbox Kinect full-body controller out of its box somewhere and reconnect the gadget that took last holiday shopping season by storm. Frankly, after jumping my way through a few test games, me and my family pretty much forgot about that black bar and mess of extra wires sitting beneath our HDTV. And when we moved our home a month ago and didn't' unpack the Kinect, no one seemed to notice.
But this week in Cannes, Microsoft gave me a reason to reconnect my Kinect, at least for another test period. They previewed for the first time the long-rumored ad units for gesture-based gaming, now dubbed NUads. As outlined in the video below, the ad tools allow a viewer of Xbox Live on their game console to do things like hover over and activate an ad on screen using the standard Kinect interface. Once in the ad you can perform a range of interactive functions like speak commands to share the content on social nets, email or text TV show reminders to yourself or vote in polls. There is even a command for finding nearby dealers in a car ad.
Much of the interactivity demonstrated in the video below and outlined by Cannes attendees I have been reading seem like pretty small potatoes. Using hand and voice gestures to interact with an ad or even to use the on board Kinect cam to plop a picture of yourself in an ad scene really just amount to using a different interface to perform tasks that could be performed on a controller. The big idea here does not seem to be functionality so much as the heightened engagement of gestures and voice.
Ok. I will be the party pooper here. As much as gesture-based interactivity sounds like a wet dream for engagement junkies, my admittedly limited use of the Kinect interface did not convince me that consumers would be eager to play along. The enormous engagement seen on tactile interfaces like touch screens are not a precedent. There is a major difference between swiping and tapping a 10 inch iPad screen and waving your arms in the air and holding a hand aloft until the Kinect cams recognize you. When the Xbox added more interface support for the Kinect earlier this year I tried using it for manipulating multimedia playback. I discovered soon enough that the large swing gestures necessary to get across screen after screen of options sent me back to the hand controller in pretty short order.Perhaps I am lazy, but the incredible efficiencies in the abstracted interactions of a digital controller became apparent to me in minutes. Lazy? Maybe. I prefer to think of myself as, well, just American.