Microsoft showed us a glimpse at the future at their E3 press conference today. We saw peeks at a lot of great upcoming games—including a reveal for Halo 4—but the one thing that seemed to tie the entire conference together was the Kinect. Microsoft has big plans for this peripheral, and they showed off some features that pretty much blew our minds.
First of all, Kinect's voice recognition feature is being used in some very interesting ways. And this isn't just limited to games; plan on navigating Xbox LIVE menus using voice commands. This includes movies and the television viewing function that will be live toward the end of 2011. To sweeten the deal even further, all of this will be integrated with the Bing search engine. With all of these features combined, XBL is going to be quite the experience. We saw a trailer in which a woman just spoke a command to search for "Harry Potter," and the XBL service was able to start playing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. No controller required.
The voice recognition feature is even integrated into the UFC pay-per-view events you'll be able to watch live in HD on XBL. Saying a fighter's name will bring up a list of current stats, and you'll also be able to call the game with the voice feature.
Probably the coolest use of the voice feature we saw was in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. You'll be able to navigate an incredibly in-depth weapons customization menu by talking your way through it. And if sorting through near-endless menu selection doesn't appeal to you, you can optimize those weapons according to your own personal preferences. For example, say "optimize for close combat," and your weapon will be instantly optimized for close-range battle. This makes weapon selection a breeze, and it almost feels like something from a science fiction film.
On top of the voice commands, Ghost Recon will take advantage of finger tracking, allowing you to aim without a controller and open your hand to fire. We're still a little skeptical at how intuitive this will feel, but it caught our attention nonetheless. Interestingly enough, we were told that from this point forward, all Tom Clancy games will be compatible with Kinect.
Another really cool use of the voice feature will allow players to activate various responses on Mass Effect 3's dialogue wheel. Dialogue has always played a significant part in Mass Effect's gameplay, and now players will get even more fully emerged in this aspect of the game. On top of this, you'll be able to command Shepard's teammates by giving them voice commands. It's Mass Effect meets SOCOM, and it's going to be wild.
Kinect Sports Season 2 is using voice recognition as well. You'll be able to switch your clubs in golf and call your plays in football via voice commands, bringing you even deeper into the controller-less gaming experience.
Another great new Kinect feature, Kinect Fun Labs, allows you to scan your body to create an avatar of yourself. This is perhaps the most detailed avatar creation we've seen thus far: even the clothes you are wearing will be scanned and applied. You can also scan real life objects and have them show up as 3D models. We saw a plush monster toy scanned and manipulated in real-time. Another Fun Labs feature allows you to snap a photo of yourself, remove the background, and draw in 3D. Yes, this means that anything you draw behind you will actually be behind you in the picture. Coolest of all: Kinect Fun Labs is live right now.
For the younger gamers out there, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster will allow players to hang out with Elmo and Cookie Monster, exploring a world of monsters. Two players—a child and an adult—showed us how the game works. They were told to flair their arms wildly to communicate with a mysterious monster in the distance, and the results were hilarious and family friendly.
One reveal that was completely unexpected was that Minecraft is coming to 360, and it will support Kinect. Sure, hackers have been using Kinect and Minecraft together for quite some time, but soon the combination will be official. There has been no word yet, however, on whether or not you'll be able to convert your 3D photos into Minecraft landscapes, like the hackers have been doing for quite a while now.
With such a strong focus on Kinect, we have to wonder if our 360 controllers are going to start feeling neglected in the near future.
By Josh Wirtanen
CCC Editor/Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*