Thoughts on Microsoft Kinect

My house has become a very sweaty place.

No, my air conditioning is fine, I just picked up a Microsoft Kinect, their new motion control device for the Xbox 360.


The first thing I did after I set it up was play the TRON: Legacy trailer…with my voice.

“Xbox…Play Trailer!”

BAM! High-def Tron goodness.

That was a “future soon” moment for me. I hate voice control. I don’t really like babbling commands at my phone. I can’t imagine dictating something I’m writing.  I make great use of Dial-A-Human. Yet, talking to the entertainment center in my living room felt very natural. After a week or so of playing with the Kinect voice control, I’m wishing it could do more things, especially since using your arms and hands to control the menus with gestures is still a bit fidgety.

Rumor has it Microsoft wants to bring this kind of gesture and voice control to computers. I’m hopeful about this because I hate touch screens. After five minutes of fiddling with my phone at lunch, my screen is as smudged as a Macy’s window during the holidays. Pizza grease and touch controls just don’t work well together. Kinect makes me want to wave my device in the air, like a Harry Potter wand, to control it. “Wingardium dial-my-mom-um!”)

Games is where Kinect really shines. Kinect Adventures, the game that comes with it, easily equals the fun of Wii Sports. You jump around, wave your arms, have fun, and get winded and yes, extremely sweaty. The fact that Kinect Adventures takes pictures of you being a silly ass that you can then post to the Internet is a bonus.

The virtual puppet rewards are really fun, too.

Shark Award from Microsoft Kinect Adventures


Since my wife uses the Wii to work out, I also picked up Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. Being able to follow along with a workout without having to hold a WiiMote, nunchuck, and some crazy fitness rubber band is a big bonus. Kinect gives you the ability to actually work out while holding weights.

It comes with an excellent  variety of workouts and some fun fitness games, though their confusing menu system makes it a bit difficult to find different things. While I like working out with it, I’m finding it’s kicking my butt and I can’t really create the custom wimp-ass workout I want to. How about I tell you how many lunges I want to do, Fitness Evolved?

Definitely some nice innovation here from the Microsoft folks. Looking forward to checking out some of the other games, as well as seeing what other neat hacks people come up with for the device.

The Writer’s Life, Chapter 1

Back in August I went part-time at my bread-winning job to actually pursue what I wanted to do for a career, which was to be a writer. Most people dream of quitting their jobs, dragging the old Smith-Corona out of the closet and pounding away, fueled by coffee and gin as they produce the great American novel. Me, I just wanted a single day to myself, where my brain wasn’t already polluted by the myriad tiny but complicated projects that make up my day job.

Thankfully, I have a wife who cares about my soul. She’s been telling me for years to find the thing that would make me happy. (Besides her, of course.) She actually quit a job many years ago for a month or so, and tried the writing life. She was good at it. But she longed for human contact and security and a little more cash to pay the bills, so she went back to her old job, and ended up being very happy for a while. She understood where I was coming from, and when I finally decided to be a tiny bit brave and take back some time for myself, she was at the top of my small pyramid of cheerleaders.

One of the things they tell you, when you want to write a novel, lose weight, or set any similar goal where failure would be mortally embarrassing, is to tell a bunch of people. I’m a chicken. I didn’t start out aiming to tell people, but they found out anyway. As I talked through the details of rearranging my work schedule, people kept asking me what I was going to do with my extra time. I’d tick off a small list of things like, improve my web development skills, learn a bit more about programming, try some dumb creative projects with glitter and ice cream sticks…maybe even write a book.

For some reason, the book was the idea that always stuck with people. It got around. Suddenly, people were coming up to me in the cafeteria going, “I think it’s so great that you’re pursuing your dream! How’s the book going?”

I really need to find a way to marshal that network for marketing when I’m done with my book.

The funny thing is, writing wasn’t really top of the list.  I thought maybe I’d pursue some of the practical things first. I thought I’d work on the skills that would help me buy more bread in the end. But the world seemed to be speaking to me, and I decided to listen. I sat down with my writing box, with all the old half-formed story ideas and fragments I had on my hard drive and on backup CDs and thought about what I wanted to write. I picked one, maybe not the easiest idea to pursue, but one that I felt I could do, and do pretty well, and that I thought would have some resonance in my soul.

And I started writing it.