Hands-on with Avatar Kinect!

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We got the opportunity to get some pre-release hands on time with Avatar Kinect, the newest gadget from the insane geniuses behind Kinect fun Labs. Avatar Kinect allows you and your online friends to engage in chats and virtual meetings using your Xbox Live Avatars. It’s available right now for Xbox Live Gold Members through Kinect Fun Labs, weighing in at a hefty 658Mb. Is it worth the download? We gave it a bash this weekend – here’s what we thought…

It’s certainly a slick and interesting way to create and share Avatar-centric videos – and gives you some decent tools to do it with. Using Kinect, the software is able to detect and track things like facial features, smiles, laughs and eyebrows along with the full body tracking you’d expect – and then maps it on to your avatar in real-time. It seems to be geared for two purposes; simple video chatting without video and for the production of amateur TV shows with a wide range of colourful sets, props and effects – but without the associated high budgets. Our intention, in fact, was to use it to create an episode of lazygamer.tv – but I was exceptionally grumpy, and Gavin was exceptionally inebriated so it essentially devolved in to us insulting each other.

It’s an exceptional idea, but in practice it seemed to not quite perform as advertised. For starters, it doesn’t pick up finger or indeed fist movements at all, so unlike the robust hand movements we’ve seen in demonstration videos, you’re left with Avatars who operate like marionettes. Detection of facial movement was significantly better, with the software accurately detecting my opening and closing mouth, as well as my waggly eyebrows. It could be the lighting in my lounge, but hand and arm movement seemed rather erratic. Another issue we had was that on Gavin’s side, he couldn’t see my movement at all, but I could see his. Voice though? That came though pretty clear considering it was using Kinect’s built-in mic.

It’s a slick and fun little app – but there’s no real practical application for it that I can see beyond the inevitable influx of third-rate garage Avatar TV shows, but even that’s limited; it only allows you to record up to five minutes of video at a go – video you can then share using Kinectshare or Facebook.

Here’s the software’s launch trailer. You can expect our own Avatar footage later this week.

Last Updated: July 25, 2011

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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