This week we went hands-on with Microsoft’s Kinect, a motion gaming solution previewed just over a year ago as ‘Project Natal’ and scheduled to arrive locally on 18 November. The system comprises of a plastic rod around 15cm long, with integrated 3D depth sensors, a camera and microphone. You connect it to your Xbox 360 and place it either above or below your TV. When you load up “Kinect” games, your body becomes the controller for the various titles. You don’t need an extra stick or Xbox controller with Kinect; instead, your hands and movements are translated to on-screen controls.
Our preview comes at a time when Sony’s PlayStation Move is about to launch, a system that uses motion controllers and the PlayStation Eye camera to track the movement of the player. This method of control is very similar to what Nintendo’s Wii has been using since it launched, and both are clearly different from Microsoft’s Kinect.
With Kinect, there are no controllers that you have to hold. You don’t have to buy more parts so your friends can play. The idea is simple: one Microsoft Kinect device per console aimed at you and your friends, monitoring what you do and turning your movements into real gameplay.
Several Kinect-specific titles such as Kinectimals, Joy Ride, Kinect Sports, and Dance Central were available at the preview, and the first one we stood up to play (instead of sitting down) was Kinectimals, a game that lets you have your very own exotic pet that responds to you.
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Your hand movements are captured and used in the Kinectimals game.

We were given a leopard to play with, and as we put our hands out toward the TV, Kinect ‘sensed’ them and introduced them into the game with 3D representations of our hands. Patting our pet was just as simple as rubbing our hands over it (as you would do with a leopard in real life, of course). We walked to the left then to the right,  Kinect will followed our movements, allowing us to play with our digital pet inside the game. Sure, we didn’t actually feel our leopards fur, but the experience was more life-like and immediate than any game we’ve played before.
Your Kinectimal will respond to things you do, mimicking you as if it were a child. We would jump, then it would jump. We stood one one leg and it did too. We were told to play dead and it fell over in an overly dramatic fashion.
The game is very cute and has a lot of charm.
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West Tigers player Lote Tuqiri goes hands on with a digital lion.