How Xbox Puts Connecting Into Kinect

Originally published in MediaPost's Social Media Insider

Kinect - moving like you mean it

Throughout Friday, the comments kept piling up on my Facebook photos:

Sister: Dave…what is going on over there??

Friend: Huh?

Colleague: What are these? I saw other people posting this kinect stuff today as well…

Friend: Holy crap. THAT IS INTENSE!!!

Colleague: My form is impeccable.

Colleague: I think this requires further explanation. Must say, I was curious why you were doing karate kid moves in your office all day!

Spouse: Shouldn't you be working? 🙂

Friend: What I want to know is, how many things or people in the office have been broken/hurt so far.         

And so they continued. It was all in response to my day of testing out Microsoft's Xbox Kinect, the controller-free console gaming system that's designed not just to get players off the couch, but to put their whole bodies in the game. For instance, the Kinect Adventures game that comes with the hardware has a series of handball challenges that allow you to palm, kick, and headbutt your way to victory.

The game system is remarkable on so many levels. I've used the controller-free activities on the Wii, and this is infinitely more immersive. That's not why I bring up Kinect, though; you've already seen that covered in the Gaming Insider, and you'll likely hear more there.

One of the biggest surprises about Kinect is how well it includes social media as part of the experience. For instance, during Kinect Adventures, when you play any game, it takes three photos of you — and anyone else in the camera's range. All the photos are stylized in a Polaroid-esque frame with Kinect branding and an auto-generated caption that relates to the scene. The photos are accessible on the Xbox, and they can be uploaded individually to Kinectshare.com. You can then log in to Kinectshare online (using your PC, not the Xbox) with your Microsoft alias, and then connect that to your Facebook profile. You can then post the photos you upload from the Xbox to Kinectshare over on your Facebook profile. This creates a new album called KinectShare.com Photos; you can see dozens of the photos on my Facebook page, even if we're not friends.

Kinect is an especially social gaming system. Provided you have enough room — and my office stretches the definition of "enough room" — you'll want to play these games with others. Kinect is a magnet for making friends. I returned to my office following a meeting and found a small crowd there jumping, dancing, and headbutting away (three activities I don't do in a typical workday). Once you upload photos of others, you'll want to tag them, and then their friends will see the photos as well. It's the embodiment of viral media.

In this case, it's clunkier than it needs to be. Why can't Microsoft, a major Facebook investor to boot, allow you to upload photos to Facebook directly from Kinect? That will have to come in the future. Given how reliably the camera catches two players simultaneously midair, these are photos players will be compelled to share.

Thinking bigger, though, it's a sign of how social media is becoming pervasive across all kinds of devices. As more devices go online and more digital media usage revolves around social media, more devices will find ways to make social media a core part of their experience. Xbox already had this with Xbox Live, its own network for gamers where there are millions more people who have earned badges than who have ever tried Foursquare. With Kinect, Xbox broadens the reach, as players can share a bit of the fun with people who don't have an Xbox.

It will go much broader than gaming. Keep an eye on Wi-Fi Direct, which allows WiFi devices to link to each other directly. More mobile, living room, and in-store devices will be digitally connected, invariably with social sharing coming as part of that. If you're only looking at social media as it's accessed via PCs and mobile phones, you're about to miss a big part of the picture.