7 Things Microsoft Xbox 360 Kinect can do that other Motion Controllers & Camera-based Devices Can’t

June 22, 2010

imageI keep seeing people ask the same question over and over again:  “What can Kinect do that current motion controllers & camera-based devices can’t?”  So here’s a list for folks to start from. 

  • Z-AXIS TRACKING
    Kinect has depth perception – a result of is multiple camera lenses.  Unlike the Sony Eyetoy which can assist in capturing 2D movement along the X & Y axis, Kinect can capture movement and imagery in 3D along X, Y, and Z axes.  Additionally, it captures actual movement, acceleration, & position changes relative to the camera & other players in all 3 dimensions.
  • IMAGE RECOGNITION
    Kinect can recognize and understand the difference between physical real world objects like skateboards, tennis rackets, and other items that might be used in game play by matching patterns in real time using its on-board CPU.  Taking image scans, loading them into the device’s memory and transferring these images for remapping to items in-game via bump mapping is trivial.
  • FACE/PROFILE RECOGNITION
    Kinect’s built-in software provides online/profile authentication using facial recognition and a simple hand gesture (a wave) that Kinect uniquely recognizes.  Through its algorithms, it can also recognize people as important control objects distinguishing them from furniture and other items in the home through shape identification algorithms and heat mapping.  Most importantly, through heat mapping and other visual characteristics, Kinect can differentiate between players despite overlapping each other (one standing behind the other) or changes to their position relative to Kinect; i.e. swapping sides does not impact Kinect.
  • SIMULTANEOUS ARM/LEG/HEAD TRACKING
    It’s one thing to recognize the difference between a sofa & a human.  It’s another thing however to accurately identify movement of one’s arms & legs to ensure realistic game play.  Kinect does this:  Kids can’t line their bodies up and combine their visual profiles to fake Kinect out.  It also tracks the movement of all arms & legs simultaneously to ensure the player is executing dance moves in total, forming the correct shape with their bodies in Yoga games, kicking one enemy while punching another, etc.  Additionally, when your head turns to the left, Kinect is smart enough to know that you want to see more of what’s on the ‘left’ of the screen and can rotate it, as if you were scanning the cockpit of a car.
  • ON-DEVICE COMPUTATION
    This is a technical detail but an important one:  With Kinect, all algorithmic/compute-intensive work is done on-device through its own CPU, memory, and software-in-ROM and does not requires the usage of the Xbox 360’s resources (such as the CPU or GPU), allowing the console to dedicate its resources exclusively to the game itself, rather than the player’s movements, their interpretation & recognition.  Kinect does NOT burden the This is one of the reasons for Kinect’s current cost.
  • VOICE RECOGNITION
    Kinect’s on-board microphone provides a 4th dimension of control:  Voice.  Through vocal recognition software, Kinect is able to, without any training, comprehend commands and differentiate between player’s voice patterns.  Call out commands, change strategies & tactics, order computer controller players… all without pushing a button or moving a limb.
  • INFRARED OPTICS
    Recognizing player identities & movement regardless of light differences is something unique to Kinect.  It’s infrared camera provides accurate player tracking & movement even when the lights are turned out during a Netflix movie, a game of Alan Wake… or the upcoming Silent Hill.

More on Kinect from Microsoft’s press/media area:
http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/xbox/videogallery.aspx?contentID=360_kinect

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Thoughts on Xbox 360 Kinect & Why It Represents a Revolution in Gaming

June 22, 2010

image I’ve seen a lot of criticism of Xbox 360’s Kinect device & it’s launch titles, saying that ‘it’s all been done before’, ‘Microsoft is just copying Nintendo’ and ‘Kinect doesn’t represent any new innovation in gaming’.

Frankly most the articles I’ve read bug me.  The majority of the opinions I’ve seen are really shallow, fly-by-night judgments made by people that have very little understanding of the device, what it does relative to the competition, and the potential it has.  I might argue that we failed to clearly communicate the device’s potential but can’t we assume that folks MIGHT do some thinking on their own besides just reading the ‘press guide’?

Here’s a few points that I think many journalists seem to be missing:

  1. KINECT LAUNCH TITLES ARE “MANDATORY”
    It’s important that people realize that Kinect’s 15 launch titles are ESSENTIAL to establishing a foothold in the ‘motion gaming’ space… but it’s just the start.

    If Microsoft failed to launch the equivalent of Wii Sports, Wii Fit, Mario Kart, etc., we’d be criticized for “still not catching up with what the basics of what the Wii has”.  Instead, Microsoft produced a few fundamental titles that essentially provide the same casual gamer ‘motion controlled’ experience as the Wii… and now we’ve been subsequently criticized for “not innovating enough” beyond the current state-of-the-art? 

    Let’s get this straight:  Microsoft is releasing all the ‘full motion gaming essentials’ with these 15-games at launch as a first step… not necessarily to produce any "transcendent" titles. (Although as you’ll see in bullet #2, I believe that certain Kinect launch titles do in fact transcend the current Wii experience)  We have many more years of gaming to accomplish that, since we own the patents on Kinect’s technology.

  2. CERTAIN KINECT TITLES DO TRANSCEND WII’S GAMES
    Having been at E3 & played for an hour or so at the Microsoft booth, I would make the case that AT LAUNCH, "Dance Central", "Kinect Adventures", "Your Shape", & "Kinect Sports" are in fact major evolutionary steps beyond what Wii has presented to date. 

    Why?

    1. "Dance Central" accurately recognizes head, arm, leg, body, hand, and foot movement in 3D & in real time, while requiring the player to hold nothing in their hands.  In comparison, the movement tracking that happens makes the Wii’s "Just Dance 2"  waggle-dependent game play look kind of last gen.  I waggled my way through an entire JD2 game without breaking a sweat; something that’s impossible to do on Dance Central.
    2. "Kinect Adventures" again leverages body, arm & leg movements to capture coins.  It’s like playing a frenetic upright game of Twister, holding your arms, legs, and body in positions that match the coin patterns coming at you.  This games reminded me of a game of basketball:  I was so focused on the game play, I didn’t realize until the end of the game how exhausted I had gotten after repeatedly playing.
    3. "Your Shape" is an easy title to applaud.  Every student of yoga recognizes the importance of establishing the right pose & maintaining it for the correct amount of time and Your Shape is the first title to accurately monitor this, making other Wii titles very deficient in comparison.  And having played the game, I can tell you that any lag one might predict would be in a sensor based game is unnoticeable in play however it was commented by a worker in the ‘capsule’ I was in that the games all are beta test quality with a ton of performance optimization left to on them.
    4. "Kinect Sports" is just flat out aerobic.  Foot work, arm work… and most of all, jumping, are all items that drive competition.  This game will be exhausting to kids who will undoubtedly like it because, among other things, it appears to automatically handicap stronger players to "even the score" allowing the 16 year old to play with the 12 year old.
  3. KINECT’S FUTURE HASN’T YET BEEN EVEN REMOTELY TAPPED
    This is just the beginning.  Gaming with Kinect is simply starting off by tapping the casual gamer however there are many directions in which Kinect based gaming can go to enhance the gaming experience.  Some people can’t understand that Kinect doesn’t have to be at the center of all gaming; Kinect can augment other game types to provide even more powerful & realistic controls during game play.
    1. Have you considered FPS games with head-tracking?  Lean to the left to peek around a wall and fire?  Lean back to hide/cover?  Get ready for this scenario because the Kinect product managers on the E3 floor verified that this exact scenario is in the works.
    2. Have you considered games that capture body motion while you hold the existing Xbox controller?  Capture voice commands during the game to initiate changes in tactics or strategy?  Tom Clancy’s EndWar was one of the first titles on Xbox 360 to do something like this but they had to engineer voice instruction into their game.  Now imagine EVERY title have voice command capabilities with little to no effort on the part of the game developer.
    3. Have you considering titles using single-handed wireless controllers?  Like say… a light saber-esque controller with a thumbstick for player movement and hand/arm gesture for other abilities… like ‘Force’ push.

Kinect has a VERY bright future.  It’s just too bad few journalists have given very much thought about the true potential of this gaming technology.  I hope they come around.

(If anything… I think the problem Microsoft will have is that people with carpeting with start to wear out the area in front of their TVs because of the constant foot traffic in the area.  I predict a heavy aftermarket industry for carpet protectors to be paired with Kinect sales.)


In Search Of… the recipe for Marina Del Rey’s “Killer Shrimp” (Part 6)

June 13, 2010

The more I experiment with this supposed recipe that’s been floating around the Internet at AllRecipes.com and other locations, the more I’m convinced that it’s WAY the hell off base.  People seem to think that the Internet is the source of all truth without realizing that it only contains the information that other people WANT you to know.  It just goes to prove how, much like Wikipedia, the Internet is full of truthiness (information that ‘feels’ true but has no fact to back up it’s claim) but often very little actual truth. 

In any case, nothing much to report because I got really sick due to some packaged goods that gave me food poisoning that had nothing to do with Killer Shrimp.  (Damn you Munchos!  Damn you to hell!)  But a couple things arose in my quest for “Killer Shrimp” I thought was notable:

————

killershrimp-logo KILLER SHRIMP… IN CHICAGO?!?
This is no joke.  Apparently, the owner of the original Killer Shrimp chain moved to Chicago.  Bastard.  And he’s opening up a store there this summer.  No one seems to have details however other than, it’s in Chicago, and it’s happening this summer.

Yes, this is the original Killer Shrimp.  Along with the original Killer Shrimp logo.  Here’s the front end web site that they’ve set up for the new restaurant:

Great.  So he closes up shop in Studio City & Marina Del Rey to open up in Chi-town?  Sorry.  I can’t get behind that at all.  Oh who am I kidding.  I’ll probably fly in just to get a sample of the broth to retest against my current formula/recipe.  Thank God for United Frequent Flyer miles.

————

image JACK SHRIMP… BROTHER OF THE KILLER SHRIMP GUY
The other thing is that there’s a place in Newport Beach called “Jack Shrimp” which has a broth reportedly identical to that of Killer Shrimp.  The reason is, “Jack Shrimp” is run by Jack Jasper, the brother of the guy who ran “Killer Shrimp”.

The story, according to my friend Stephanie and this LA Times news article, is that Jack’s sister & a partner took their grandmother’s recipe and opened up the Killer Shrimp chain – strictly selling shrimp broth and only shrimp broth.  Meanwhile, Jack set up his own restaurant in Newport Beach diversifying the menu.  If it’s true, and the same recipe is used at both locations, this could be a boon to figuring out what the recipe is.

Hey – it beats flying to Chicago.

————

SHRIMP/FISH STOCK?
My friend, Steph the wonder cook, brought this up a few months ago and I only remembered it today when I was parsing through some old Chowhound threads.  I found a mention of the inclusion of “shrimp or fish stock” in a Chowhound post the other day which might provide that all important “savory” taste that I think is still missing.  Only one question remains:  WTF is Shrimp/Fish stock?

I’ll give this a try once I figure out what it really is and how much to start with.

And for what it’s worth – the creation of this broth is such a laborious task that I actually don’t think that researching and publishing the recipe is that much of a concern to the restaurants that use it.  The dish isn’t that expensive but the cost of preparing it in time and labor is huge.  While the overall cost of goods isn’t high, you really have to make it in bulk for it to be worth one’s time which is why doing it as a restaurant dish as opposed to a home-cooked dish really makes a lot of sense.


Something about this Venetian Casino invite makes me laugh hysterically

June 9, 2010

image

I got another one of those marketing offers to go to Vegas comped based on my previous table play. 

This one was unique however in that it’s squarely targeted at fathers.  Anyone else see the obvious humor in this? 

Come to Vegas!

  • The city that has virtually NO facilities for children. (at least not since the 90’s during the “family friendly” explosion that quickly faded) 
  • Spend time at the tables and away from your kids. (since casinos prohibit children from loitering in the gaming area) 
  • Eat at our fine dining – i.e. no strollers allowed – establishments along the canals
  • Relax in the fun-free zone of the pool (a.k.a. not the Adult / 21 & Over Only part)
  • Blow away your kid’s inheritance/college fund

Sooooo… Happy Father’s Day! 

(Suddenly, I feel TWICE as good about all the cash I’ve taken from the Venetian Blackjack tables.)


Rest in peace, Coach.

June 4, 2010

image


In Search Of… the recipe for Marina Del Rey’s “Killer Shrimp” (Part 5)

June 4, 2010

Well, that didn’t work,

imageLet it be known that parmesan cheese sours a broth.  Literally.  The sour taste of the cheese permeated the broth like I’d added too much tomato paste and that was disappointing.  The rosemary seemed to be a tasty addition however so that was a plus.

However I’m at the point where the acidity of the broth is much too high.  I may need to start the broth completely over from scratch using no starter broth from previous batches.

“WE USE A TON OF BUTTER…”
One thing stuck out in my mind and that was the look of the broth close up.  If you take a look at the edges of the broth in the white bowl in the photo, you can see some froth that is missing in the current experimental recipe. (And every other recipe out there as well)  It also appears to lack the oily look of the current broth which is interesting to me.

I consulted my friend Steph about this aberration and she suddenly began thinking about all sorts of reasons the broth looked so different in the picture compared to the current recipe.  She determined that the froth is the result of the butter.  Milk solids appear like that when you add butter to soups and if you add it early enough, you don’t get that layer of oil at the top of the broth – something the current experimental recipe suffers from.

This makes sense, especially considering you never saw a layer of oil on the original broth.  You might have seen some swirling in the bowl but never a LAYER.  Additionally, it’s well quoted that the Killer Shrimp folk commented several times in quotes that “we use a ton of butter” as part of the cooking process.

So the primary addition of butter is now being added at the VERY END of the cooking process, with some butter used for the mirepoix melting process.  The result is a tastier broth with a froth at the top that tastes good!

GARLIC CHUNKS… NOT MUSH
Another change is the nature of the how the garlic is mixed into the broth.  Previously, I’ve made sure the garlic melted pretty well, but now I’m not so sure.  When looking at the broth sediment of the original Killer Shrimp, you could notice that there were remnants of garlic at the bottom, meaning that it hadn’t completely dissolved into the soup.

So I’m now chopping the garlic but not crushing it like the rest of the spices.  And I’m making sure not to melt it down as part of the mirepoix but rather just let it soften.

So here’s what we’ve got now in this batch:

Killer Shrimp
(version .04)

INGREDIENTS:

      • ½ small onion, diced
      • 1 celery rib, diced
      • 1 moderate sized carrot, diced
      • 5 cloves Garlic, chopped/diced small
      • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
      • 2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
      • 2 tablespoon FRESH – not dried – Rosemary
      • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
      • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper (3/4 teaspoon if PREVIOUS batch of Killer Shrimp is available)
      • 1 teaspoon celery seed
      • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
      • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (3/4 teaspoon if PREVIOUS batch of Killer Shrimp is available)
      • 8oz clam juice (was 1 cup clam juice supposed to change to 2 cups but switched back to 8 oz)
      • 3 tablespoons (3 oz) of tomato paste (was 1/2 (6 ounce) can tomato paste)
      • 1 cup beer (ale)
      • 1 ½ pounds shrimp, with tails
      • 1 (1 pound) loaf French bread
      • 2 cups of PREVIOUS batch of Killer Shrimp

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Fry onion, celery, carrots, garlic in a small pad of the butter until fragrant and soft in a large pot.  Do not use more than a pad here.
  2. Take all the spices (rosemary, thyme, pepper, celery seed, fennel seed, pepper flakes) and cut/crush them enough that they remain whole but are broken to more easily release flavor.
  3. Pour in broth, and mix in rosemary, thyme, pepper, celery seed, fennel seed, clam juice, pepper flakes, & tomato paste. Place cover on pot to maintain consistency.
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  5. Stir beer into the broth mixture as well as PREVIOUS batch of Killer Shrimp and continue to simmer and occasionally stir 2 hours.
  6. Just before serving, stir in shrimp. Continue cooking 3 minutes, or until shrimp are opaque. Remove and place in serving bowl.
  7. Add remaining butter in pads.  Stir until all pads are melted.  Once melted, quickly turn off heat and serve broth with previously separated shrimp in bowls.
  8. Serve with bread.