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Cybernaut

Kinect the future of gaming?

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You are the controller. Seriously. The commercials were quite right about that. What is less obvious at this point is whether that's a good thing.

Microsoft's Kinect control system hit the stores last week with a handful of games, and so far the reviews have been pretty good - although there's a sense the technology is not quite ready for prime time.

On the game front, there's Kinectimals, a game which appeals to younger kids by allowing them to play, interact and care for a real jungle cat - lion, tiger, panther, whatever he or she chooses. It's actually a series of mini games that you play with gestures and voice commands to unlock new games and areas of the tropical island in search of treasure. Some games involve driving your pet around, others throwing a ball for him/her to fetch.

Then there's Kinect Sports, a selection of motion-sensitive games similar to what you'll find on Wii Sports title, but with no controller required. The list of games includes bowling, track, beach volleyball, table tennis, soccer and boxing. I've seen demos and soccer looks to be the lamest, but generally people are quite happy with the games and the control scheme. Did I mention there's no controller?

Also available is Dance Central, which is a rhythm dance game where you move your arms and body as well as your feet to get your avatar cutting the rug. There are several different training and gaming modes to give this title some variety - in one you'll be graded on your ability to keep up with the routine for the duration of a song. In another you'll match moves with an online opponent in a dance-off format. By all accounts it's a fun game - maybe the best dance game of all time, say commentators - and something every teen is going to want.

There's a driving game, which is supposed to be largely forgettable once you get over the "there's no controller!" novelty. Then there's Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, a motion sensing fitness program that is obviously designed to give Wii Fit a run for its considerable money.

Here's the thing: Kinnect will cost you $150. It's pretty cool hardware with voice and motion technology, and it does other things besides games. It will let you sit in your chair and navigate through Xbox Live using gestures and voice commands. You can use the camera to video conference. However, since your body is the controller you also need a lot of space - the optimal distance from Kinect's sensors is about eight feet to ensure you remain squarely in the frame, and not everybody is going to have that much open area. For most people it's going to take a minor redecoration just to play with one person, much less with two.

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