updated 12:45 am EDT, Thu November 4, 2010
Xbox 360 Kinect launches but with skin color issue
Microsoft tonight officially launched Kinect, its motion controller add-on. Early reports suggest Microsoft's aim of significant lineups was coming true, particularly at its New York City flagship event at Times Square. As many as five million controllers could ship by the end of 2010.
The peripheral uses a pair of cameras and a microphone to track whole-body gestures as well as recognize voice commands, allowing for games that theoretically never involve touching a physical controller. About 17 launch titles are onboard, four of which are from Microsoft itself. It ships in an add-on bundle with Kinect Adventures for $150 but can also be had in a 4GB Xbox 360 Arcade bundle for $300 and a 250GB version for $400.
An early launch problem may have arrived, however, according to one anecdote from testing. While skeletal tracking worked for all players, GameSpot reported having problems with facial recognition for two out of three dark-skinned players. One would only be recognized randomly by the Kinect's cameras, while the other had no success at all.
The problem isn't unique to Microsoft and is well known for having affected HP webcams with facial recognition software. Most such routines look for contrast in facial features and regularly have trouble when dark skin makes the differences harder to detect for the frequently low-resolution cameras. Kinect uses both a 640x480 main camera and a 320x240 monochrome camera for depth, the combination of which may make it harder to pick up darker tones.
Microsoft has said it designed the system to work properly for "all shapes and ethnicities" but has asked those with recognition problems to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.