During our Tuesday afternoon at the Xbox Campus in Redmond, Washington, we had the chance to try out the new Xbox One controller, as well as getting a first tease of the what the new and improved Kinect can do. First out was the controller, apparently "the best game controller the industry have ever seen," according, at least, to the guy who showed it to us.
He also told us that Microsoft personnel have travelled around the world with a prototype of the controller, letting people of all ages and sizes try it out. All in order to make the most snug-fitting controller ever. The battery hatch on the bottom has been integrated into the controller itself. The thumb-sticks have a smaller diameter and are about 25 percent easier to move. The D-pad has also been trimmed and will, according to Microsoft, be perfect for fighting games and sports games. The triggers have ben fitted with magnetic sensors, allowing every hint of movement to be noticed.
There is also a new expansion port on the bottom of the controller. It allows high-speed data transfers to the console, but we didn't get to know the exact reasons for it other than it would "enable some awesome controller add-on experiences." Last, but not least, there's also the addition of new vibrators that go straight to your fingertips. I had a chance to experience this while trying out a demo that consisted of simply firing a gun. I could feel the recoil in the trigger button. This will of course enhance the experience in a lot of action games, but I kind of wonder what it will do to you in the long-term. Maybe it'll leave you with itching phantom pains in your trigger-finger?
We didn't get to try out the controller for very long, but I liked what they showed us. It has a good grip. Good precision. Feels like a tighter, more slimmed version of the 360 offering - but with more advanced rumble features. Microsoft is supposed to have made about 40 improvements to the new controller.
Next up was the Kinect. I've never really liked Kinect for Xbox 360 and I wasn't that excited about the news that Kinect 2.0 was coming for Xbox One either. But after standing in front of a TV while flapping my arms, doing some lame drop kicks, and flexing my biceps for a minute or two, I was pretty impressed. Not by my drop kicks or biceps, but how immersive it felt. You could tell that Microsoft had ploughed a lot of time and money into this thing. The camera covers a larger area than the older iteration, and is supposed to work a lot better in smaller rooms this time around. It has much improved 3D depth perception, with the ability to distinguish small details, like the folds on your sweater. It can show as many as six people at the same time on the screen. It reads your facial expressions, your heart rate, and even has sensors that make it possible to play in a more or less blackened room.
It is almost scary to see how well it recreates a 3D image of me on the screen. When I move my fingers the motion sensors picks it up instantly. It reacts as I discretely flex my shoulders. It can estimate the speed of motion, and even physical load. If you, for example, are standing on one leg, the camera notes an increased stress on the leg you're still standing on. Together with the opportunity of reading your heart frequency; this will probably go down well with people who love to work out Wii Fitness-style.
It is also easy to jump in as an extra player. If you've ever showed your pale face in front of the camera, it can instantly recognise you the next time you show up, and before you've screamed "1984", you're going to be logged in. This feature can be shut off if you don't want to get framed everytime you pass by the TV, thankfully.
The new Kinect also features some sound microphones that can determine where you are in the room and recognise your voice, even if there's a lot of noise. Should you be cursed with an annoying friend next to you on the couch, it is possible to make Kinect ignore him.
Even if I'm never going to stand in front of the TV, doing a fitness workout in skin-tight lycra, I'm still curious about what the developers can come up with. Reading facial expressions and heart frequencies could turn out pretty great in a horror game, or why not in an interrogation scene like in L.A Noire? Combine classic gaming with a controller and the many functions of the camera, and it could get quite interesting.