Will Microsoft Blaze the Path for the Next Evolution of Gaming? If you grew up in the 90s, you must have heard of something called “virtual reality.” As a concept, it is the touted complete immersion of users into a virtual world where they could interact with their surroundings in predetermined ways. The 90s being “rad” and technologically silly and all that, however, it portrayed VR to the media as something more akin to a teleportation and/or dream device where movements and interactions were virtually unrestrained. Of course, developments in movement-based controls, voice recognition, autostereoscopy, and others have shown just how harebrained “90s VR” was. Specifically, the mass market releases of these new technologies made us see that no matter how futuristic a concept was, it still carried its own set of limitations. That said, these developments aren’t saying that this is all there is, either. If anything, by not promising stuff other than what already exists, the promises of the future are that much more palpable and trackable. The Xbox 720? Enter the so-dubbed “Xbox 720;” or rather, the idea of it. See, it still hasn’t been unveiled, but leaked documents are pointing to its release date sometime next year, along with some other interesting peripherals. It seems Microsoft is planning on outfitting its upcoming gaming console with hardware on par with very high end desktop and laptop parts. In addition to the performance boost (about six times the current Xbox, according to early reports), the 720 will also feature Blu-ray support and true 1080p HD output with 3D imaging capability. Much like Sony did with the PlayStation 3, Microsoft is positioning the 720 as the only entertainment box you’ll ever need in your living room by adding not only the
aforementioned Blu-ray playback, but functions for TV content as well. A gaming console, a Bluray player, and TiVo all in one? Who could say no to that? Kinect 2.0 One of the peripherals that will be coming with the 720 is a vastly enhanced Kinect. Dubbed the “Kinect 2.0,” this device improves upon the current version by increasing its accuracy, refining its voice recognition, improving the RGB camera, implementing stereo imaging, supporting up to four players simultaneously; and best of all, having its own hardware processing, which means that it will work much faster since it now has its own dedicated components. Kinect Glasses It gets better: The other peripheral rumored to come out with the 720 is the so-called “Kinect Glasses” (a take on Google’s own Project Glass, obviously). Basically, this is Microsoft’s own AR (augmented reality) device that display full 360° imagery to a user. One doesn’t need to be a genius to realize how awesome this means for total gaming immersion. Virtual Reality Redux? So, with Kinect 2.0 and Kinect Glasses working in tandem, does this mean that virtual reality will finally be seeing (*ehem*) reality? Not exactly. At least, not yet. You have to think like a gamer when going about this. Once you do, then you’ll realize that no matter how immersive the Kinect Glasses may make a world seem to be, interacting with it via the Kinect 2.0 is still limited by the actual space you have and how much energy you’re willing to expend. Living room sizes are still inadequate for full-on open-world immersion; and it’ll be a cold day in hell before gamers will be expected to go through the actual ranges of movement of soldiers, Ryu’s highly developed martial arts mastery, and the like. More likely, games like dodgeball and Dance Central will be the norm for Kinect, just as it is now.
But who knows? 2013 is still a ways off. With the rate technology has been developing these past few years, we may just see a position-dynamic holodeck yet to go with the two upcoming Xbox peripherals. That, or home architecture might just incorporate wide open “game rooms” soon. In any case, an Xbox controller in tandem with the Kincet Glasses isn’t so bad. The heightened visual immersion is still there. Coupled with the intuition gamers have developed with controllers over the years (think a driver and his car), and the gameplay possibilities are still astounding.
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If these rumors are anything to go by, the future of gaming will immerse players more deeply into the experience than ever before. Will Virt...