Last night saw the midnight release of Microsoft's Kinect, the Xbox 360's much-advertised motion-sensing peripheral. Fans lined up days in advance at some locations, with a flagship launch event held in Times Square. Offering a "controller-free gaming experience," the sensor unit utilizes motion capture as well as facial and voice recognition to provide hands-free control of the Xbox. A standalone unit retails for $149.99 or comes bundled with a console for $299.99, and initial preorders and sales predict strong numbers for the holiday season. Microsoft expects to sell five million Kinect units before the year's end, as well as potential sellouts come Christmas.
One issue could mar the success of the launch, though. According to a story at Gamespot, several employees with dark skin tones had trouble being scanned by the facial recognition software. This feature is designed to detect a player simply by entering the Kinect's field of view, eliminating the need for choosing a player profile before starting a game. "The system recognized one employee inconsistently, while it was never able to properly identify the other despite repeated calibration attempts," the article reports.
Although this issue may steal the spotlight away from the launch, it is not uncommon in webcams to have facial detection issues. Especially when using low-resolution cameras, dark skin tones can be harder to detect and track, something that has troubled other webcam makers in the past. Microsoft is asking for anyone experiencing a problem to contact them via email and stresses that the system is designed to work with people of all shapes and ethnicities.