Kinect The Dots

Remember the days when the ‘hot’ toy of the holidays was a sparkly-eyed doll or a chattery furry robot? Although the odd legitimate ‘toy’ still breaks through the clutter come Christmas, electronics tend to take top billing. The majority of sizzling products – Nintendo Wii and Rock Band kit among them – tend to become available all in good time, but if you want to beat the rush this year, why not pre-order one of the hot new electronics gadgets that are sure to be on everyone’s wish lists this winter?

At first I was thinking, with the three platforms available out there, perhaps the hysteria won’t be so great for the new gadgets on the market – but then I remembered the Wii Fit-mania of two years ago. The main buzzed-about product that will be going head to head with the Wii – or really, beyond it – is Xbox 360’s new ‘Kinect’ device. Retailing for around $150, the Kinect has a built-in sensor that keeps tabs of every move you make (kind of like Sting). This means instead of wobbling a remote around a la Wii, all you have to do is launch your body in tune with the game and it’ll track your motion and respond accordingly. The Kinect isn’t just for games either – you can raise your hand, Minority Report style, move it to teach a movie to fast forward or rewind. Say what?

The Kinect won’t be compatible with every game off the hop obviously – in fact Xbox is launching a line of Kinect-specific games on its release date, including a fun dance game that teaches you 600 new moves (take that Wii Fit!), a mini-game pack called Kinect Adventures (take that Wii Sports!), a Biggest Loser workout game (again, boo-yah to the Fit!), and Kinectimals, which lets you interact with a pack of kitties that can recognize your face and respond to your movements (take that crazy cat ladies!).

If you aren’t an Xbox 360 user, PS3 is also coming out with a Wii-esque system called ‘Move’. It’s a lot more similar to the Wii’s handheld remotes but features a more updated, nuanced technology base (understandable given its been several years since the Wii debuted and crash-landed into a TV set near you). Again, the Move will come with a range of new games, including an interesting sounding one called ‘echocrome II’ that requires you to use your remote as a flashlight to guide your avatar to safety.

As for the Wii? Well, it’s Mario’s 25th birthday. Aside from that, the Wii always has a ton of fun, arcade and interactive-style games rolling out – after all, they were first to the table with their motion-enabled technology. Kirby’s Epic Yarn is about to debut and sounds like a fantastically cutesy good time. Alternatively get your groove on with the Prince of Pop with Michael Jackson: The Experience Hands On (oh that name…).

It seems it’ll be a couple of years yet till we see another epic Xbox vs PlayStation vs Nintendo smackdown come the holidays, but when stocking up on the latest gamer gear always keep in mind the golden rule of electronics: its obsolete the second you walk out the door, so tread (and spend) carefully.

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