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Visikord Challenge
InDaViz  [developer] May 5, 2013 @ 5:34pm
Was Gabe Newell wrong? / FPS Kinect done right
I'm shamelessly using a sensationalist title but I'll try to make it worth it. Gabe said about Kinect, "Your hands, and your wrist muscles, and your fingers are actually your highest bandwidth — so to trying to talk to a game with your arms is essentially saying 'oh we’re going to stop using ethernet and go back to 300 baud dial-up.'"

My (as the main dev, and ours at InDaViz) view is that Gabe is correct when Kinect is used in the typical you-are-the-controller way. But there's another way, that we used in Visikord Challenge, that instead sees Kinect only as a precise detector of solid object in space. With that approach the player can activate on-screen triggers by moving wrists with relatively high precision (3mm sensitivity sidewise, 10mm front) and as fast as four times as second.

Let me show a concept of how a FPS could be done with Kinect without the awkward, imprecise and laggy mapping of body movements into controller actions.

To begin, let's forget games for a second, and imagine you are tasked with designing a flying shooting mechanical platform that is controlled by a space-sensitive sensor.

Please take a look at concept art showing such a platform (quickly put together, based on an actual 1950's drawing of a military project!):
In this moving platform, placing fingers inside the red-highlighted zone makes the platform fly, and touching the air inside the blue zone makes the front weapon shoot in the direction pointed at. There is no body joints detection, no skeleton tracking -- just reaction to solid objects in the object-sensitive area. (In reality you'd make some checks to make sure those are human fingers, e.g. by checking object temperature, but let's not worry about safety for now).

Now with that flying-shooting Kinect-like space-sensor controlled platform in mind, how would we design a game where the player inside that platform?

One possible answer is in the concept game screenshot here:
(credits: screenshot is from a game called Kwai.)

In the screenshot, objects (your hands) close to the activation plane of the sensitive areas and beyond it are shown visible and in 1-1 mapping. When you move your hand at the bottom area, around your waist, you fly the platform. When you push inside the upper area past the activation plane, you fire the weapon. That's all there is to it. There is no jumping, kicking etc., anymore than would be on an actual flying platform.

The lag would certainly higher than with a keyboard, but could be made higher by no more than 30-50ms. The upside of such design is that point-and-shoot is more natural than with a mouse. Plus the Kinect driver itself could be easily design to send an interrupt whenever an object is inside a few defined areas to cut down on processing times.

A different question is, would you play such a game? As for this post's author, the answer is definitely yes. We'd like to hear what you think.