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kinect fun labsThe Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) comes and goes each year with new games, hardware, planned releases and the occasional freebie. This year Microsoft announced Kinect Fun Labs, a collection of “gadgets” that somewhat resemble highly polished Kinect hacks 5 Microsoft Xbox Kinect Hacks That'll Blow Your Mind 5 Microsoft Xbox Kinect Hacks That'll Blow Your Mind Read More , free for your Xbox 360.

There’s only a few of these gadgets available at the moment, though Microsoft intends to keep adding new activities and mini games including the upcoming Avatar Kinect, a 3D chat How to Get Started In Second Life in 10 Easy Steps How to Get Started In Second Life in 10 Easy Steps Read More innovation that can read facial expressions (and doesn’t require you to stand up!).

Kinect Fun Labs is downloadable from the 360’s in-built Marketplace and accessed via the Kinect Hub, so make sure you’ve plugged in your all-seeing-eye before you try and play.

Download & Play

You can grab Kinect Fun Labs from the Xbox Marketplace, either through the console or a web interface. To download via web, login with your Xbox credentials and add this download to your downloads list, then turn on your console and sign in to Live (the download will begin).

If you’re already in front of your Xbox you’ll find Kinect Fun Labs accessible from both the Game Marketplace menu and Kinect Hub menu. The download is around 700MB, and depending on the speed of your connection Do an Internet Speed Test with SpeedTest Do an Internet Speed Test with SpeedTest Read More this could take a while.
kinect fun labs
At the time of reviewing, two Gadgets were included with Fun Labs (under the heading My Gadgets) – Kinect Me and Googly Eyes. In addition to these, a further two gadgets are available for download, Bobble Head and Build A Buddy weighing in at around 200MB and 250MB respectively, that’s around 1.2GB for the lot.

Rather frustratingly (and often a regular issue with Xbox 360 file transfers) I was unable to do anything else with my 360 whilst downloading these gadgets. Accidentally hit the “Xbox” button on your controller? Too bad, download cancelled, set it up again. This will annoy me until the end of time (or at least until Microsoft sort it out).

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The Gadgets

I think I speak for a lot of Kinect owners when I say I’m both relieved and encouraged that Microsoft has finally taken the first steps towards putting Kinect “hacks” directly on its flagship console. We’ve all seen them by now: hand puppets projected on walls, balding blokes rotating “3D” images of their desks and some very intelligent arts, retail and live music 3 Sources To Stream Or Download Live Music for Free 3 Sources To Stream Or Download Live Music for Free Read More integration.

Whilst there’s nothing quite so bold in this package, it is quite nice to finally try out some of the other Kinect capabilities on the console it was designed for. Were Microsoft encouraged by the community’s hacking efforts? Probably!

Kinect Me

kinect labs
The idea behind Kinect Me is to take images from the Kinect sensor of your face and turn it into an avatar. Unfortunately, there are two issues with this: you can’t export your created avatar to use in normal games or on the dashboard and it doesn’t work very well.

Now I’ve not got the biggest living room in the world, but games like Dance Central and Kinect Adventures work pretty well. I always stick a few extra lights on when I play (one directly above me, lighting my face well) but this didn’t seem to make any difference.

A close inspection of my avatar revealed some sort of nasal disfigurement I never realised I had, and some odd splotchy black bits (which I assume were my facial hair) that didn’t make me look particularly handsome.
kinect labs
And I’m not the only one. A thread on the official Xbox forums reveals a number of users have had issues. Comments include: “My avatar looked like it suffered acid burns to the mouth, cheeks and chin” (aarlin81), “Is there some sort of trick? My kinect me looks mexican and has a squashed face” (Right Wing Red) and “my face looked…well, scary. Blotchy, spotty. Nothing like the demo during E3” (Vinzter).

In fairness, I thought the way it handled my hair was pretty good and of course it might work just fine for you, especially if you don’t have a beard.

Googly Eyes

kinect labs
Much like Kinect Me, this one is daring yet somewhat flawed though there’s no denying that the technology is impressive. Googly Eyes allows you to “scan” in an object (both the front and the back), add a pair of googly eyes and then lets you to control it much like a puppet show.

It can be pretty fiddly getting things to scan without having your hand or arm in the picture, and my Xbox constantly told me items were too small, too close or too far away – making it pretty fiddly to use.

Once you’ve scanned in your item, adjusted the eyes and jumped around stage you’re invited to record a skit to share with your friends. It’s a nice idea, but somewhat pointless and not very rewarding.

Bobble Head

kinect gadgets
I honestly can’t see the point in this one. It’s Kinect Me, only instead of creating an avatar you create a “bobble head” and record a message. You can then share this bobble head and message with your friends, not that you’d want to.

The process involved in getting a picture for the bobble head was a long, drawn out affair of the scanner telling me to move forwards, then telling me I was too close, then telling me I was too far away… you get the picture.

The most satisfying part? You can repeatedly slap your brand new bobble head across the face afterwards. This went some way towards making me feel better about the 10 minutes I spent on my knees in front of the TV trying to capture an acceptable Bobble Head image.

Build A Buddy

kinect fun labs
So far, it’s not been great. The other gadgets are all a bit poor, with little to no longevity and overly fiddly image capture. I had far less issues with Build A Buddy, even down to using the Kinect to scan in images.

This Gadget allows you to scan in two sides of an object (much like Googly Eyes) and then apply different personality traits. Your creation is then brought to life for you to interact with on screen. In a highly unoriginal twist I used a teddy bear and despite being a bit low-resolution (and diseased looking, mostly due to shadows) the software did a remarkable job.

Thus far I’d mark this as the best gadget, mainly because there’s a reason to play again with different objects (applying different personalities). I’d also hazard a guess that kids will enjoy this one the most as there are virtually endless “characters” to create with every day objects.

Conclusion

It’s a shame that these gadgets, thus far, are a bit of a disappointment. Conversely, it’s awesome that Microsoft have put the effort into expanding the free Kinect experience, and hopefully future creations will be more effective.

Avatar Kinect already looks quite fun, and there’s another gadget in the pipeline called Sparkler. If you’ve got a Kinect then you might as well give these a go, and don’t forget to keep an eye on the Kinect Fun Labs additions over the next few years.

Have you tried Kinect Fun Labs? Any favorites? Did the technology fail you? Report your findings in the comments below.

  1. James Bruce
    June 20, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Totally agreed. I was so looking forward to this after seeing the awesome e3 demos, but quite disappointed with the real thing.

    While I didn't have lighting problems or random facial features, it did completely fail to recognize my face and body shape, and just seemed to paint the image onto a standard template. And the fact that you can't even DO anything with your new avatar is f-ing ridiculous. Obviously, theyre trying to protect their lucrative avatar items business and stop us scanning our own clothes, but really then, what is the point?!

    Still, kudos for making some kind of progress, and it's still by far the best of the current generation of movement recognition.

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