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What the Tech: Sky Glass’ resurrection of the Xbox Kinect is a blast from the past

The new Sky Glass streaming TV will adopt technology similar to that of the motion-sensing Xbox Kinect attachment, and it’s taken us by surprise.

Back in the twilight years of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, both Sony and Microsoft decided to play yet another game of one-upmanship in the console wars, and this time even the Nintendo Wii caught a few strays. Xbox Kinect and PlayStation Move both came out in 2010 and included motion-sensing elements that had been greatly popularised by Nintendo’s quirky home console.

Both Microsoft and Sony’s efforts staggered onto the next generation of consoles too, but came to a spluttering halt as they never truly won over gamers who were more comfortable with a controller in their hands, and a hell of a lot less comfortable throwing shapes in their living room.

That’s not to say that the entire experiment was a waste; after all, without it we’d have been denied the intense second-hand embarrassment of those dance-off battles from Kinect Star Wars. But it certainly seemed that the brief era of motion-based antics had run its course, to be replaced by augmented reality as the next frontier in interactive gaming.

At least, that’s certainly how things looked until Sky resurrected the concept once again with the launch of its new 4K streaming TV, Sky Glass. While most people were absorbed with the idea of having all of the benefits of a Sky subscription without the need of a satellite dish or set-top box, I was thrown for a loop to see a Kinect-style games system being advertised as an optional accessory. 

The feature, which was constructed in partnership with Microsoft and therefore is a genuine successor to the Kinect, was introduced in the promotional video with the sight of a child and his father thrashing about like rictus-grinned demonically possessed cultists in front of their TV.

While it’s all too easy (and all too fun) to mock the clumsiness and inherent cringeworthiness of these motion-tracking devices, which encourage grown adults to make fools of themselves in public almost to the same extent as ill-advised Facebook statuses, it does admittedly still offer an easy-access and somewhat active video game platform that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

If Kinect didn’t take off over a decade ago despite the full power of the Xbox brand behind it, I doubt that it will capture the zeitgeist these days either, especially when being limited only to Sky subscribers who choose to buy the new TV. 

Yet, just as it brings a smile to the face of gamers of a certain generation to see the clunky graphics and hear the whooshing start-up sounds of a Sega Saturn or Nintendo 64, I get a warm fuzzy feeling at the mere idea of parents and grandparents again converging before the television on a boozy Boxing Day to perform the once-traditional ritual of contorting themselves like beached seals, in an ill-advised and desperate attempt to seem cool and “with it” in front of their horrified offspring. It doesn’t work – it never works – but it’s all in good fun.

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