Carmack criticises "fundamentally poor" Kinect interactions

id Software co-founder still has problems despite hardware improvements

id Software co-founder John Carmack has addressed the "fundamentally poor" interactions offered by Kinect, and casting doubt over its relevance for game development.

In the opening keynote of Quakecon 2013, Carmack acknowledged that Kinect was targeted at a "broad consumer base" with different demands and expectations to his own. However, he argued that even the new iteration of the hardware - on paper, a big improvement over the launch version - has obvious flaws.

"I think Kinect still has some fundamental limitations with the latency and frame rate on it," he said, as reported by Polygon. "Interacting with it is still ... when you interact with Kinect, some of the standard interactions - position and hold, waiting for different things - it's fundamentally a poor interaction.

"One way that I look at it is - I used to give Apple a lot of grief about the one button mouse. Anybody working with a mouse really wants more buttons - [they're] helpful there. Kinect is sort of like a zero button mouse with a lot of latency on it."

In recent months, the conversation around the Kinect has been dominated by concerns over the hardware's potential for data collection, and even spying. However, Carmack expressed his belief that such matters will be fleeting, akin to the debate over the inclusion of GPS capability in smartphones.

Carmack also threw his hat into the ring on another controversial facet of Xbox One: the now abandoned emphasis on digital media. While the veteran programmer stated no strong opinion, he described the public outcry as a "witch-hunt" and "a bit unjustified."

"The future is obvious right there," he argued, "and it will be good for us in general."

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Latest comments (12)

Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship4 years ago
"Kinect is sort of like a zero button mouse with a lot of latency on it."

Come on John, tell us what you really think! Mr Carmack brings the truth train.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 2nd August 2013 10:39am

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The KINECT is a marvelous entry level (optical) motion tracking initiative. The Israel company behind the system did great things to create the original system - it is a shame that MS did not invest a little more into the XBone update, and we are really playing with the same firmware in a new presentation. Some may have read that Apple is looking to buy the original developers of the KINECT and it could prove interesting to see gyro, GPS and optical tracking married together.

I feel that when the Wii remote got its 'booster' add-on we could see some serious developments to the concept of tracked gaming - then we saw the KINECT drive the standard a little more, while the Playstation MOVE proved a little bit of a Cul-de-sac. While in the commercial end of the player tracking system (which was the originator of this trend with Konami's arcade MoCap game in 2001), the move now is more exact motion tracking via magnetic, and new optical scan systems - that I am sure will migrate themselves into the next gen consoles (gen 9?)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by kevin williams on 2nd August 2013 12:19pm

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago
Every controller has aspired to require a little input motion as possible. Mice get more sensitive, keyboards are flat, controllers fit into hands. If you play a game, it is all about tiny motions.

The Wii was a novelty trying to imitate real motions and the Kinect is the same. Nice to look at, makes for good TV, but is as far removed from the tiny finger movements of regular gaming as humanly possible. If the Kinect can pick up and interpret tiny gestures of all my finger while I sit on the couch, then the core gaming favors might turn. But so far, it's just a silly form of input for a generation of gamers who have not realized the joke is on them while other people watch them "reenact" games.

I dispute the broader audience appeal argument of Kinecet controls on the basis of the cliche image of an overweight slob sitting in his TV chair motionless with only his thumb occasionally twitching while he is looking for another thing to watch on TV.
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Show all comments (12)
Julian Toseland games podcaster/website 4 years ago
Well I have to say from the more "core" gamers point of view the Kinect was a failure in my eyes, and has become yet another dust gatherer for most people.
Sadly as well for me the "move" was a far more accurate device, but was terribly supported.
With the news of Kinect 2.0 having some extra bells and whistles to try and show us they have listened, and had taken it to the point we all expected originally, but some good points raised here still for do not fill me with confidence at all, in fact given this and all the madness that Microsoft have gone through in the last few months has done nothing to make me as a gamer want to buy both consoles at launch, and right now have only placed a PS 4 pre-order,

But all in all for me, I just can not see how the Kinect can be a major device for home consoles, because for me why ever that button press does operations quicker than Kinect I will never find a use for it, because its not delivered as a gaming device as yet, it's still nothing more than a glorified mic/camera controller, so they will have to prove massive steps forward for me to come around.
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Joel Hruska Analyst/Journalist 4 years ago
Kinect could be great for a few things -- I don't know why no one has built a game that allowed you to use military hand motions to give squad commands, for example. But as a full-on game controller outside of rhythm games, it's fundamentally flawed. I don't want to reach out every time I need to open a door, or point at an enemy and say "Lightning bolt."

We use buttons for gaming because buttons are extremely effective shortcuts. Contextual "Use" buttons in which a single command pushes, pulls, activates, or picks up an item is a far more accurate depiction of how real life works. In real life, we don't think: "Ok, I'm going to make the exact -- oh wait, no, I need to turn my hand the OTHER way -- ok, good, now I can pick up the item."

We just do. A button maps to "Do!" Duplicating those functions with sufficient speed and precision to feel lifelike is incredibly difficult, and Kinect isn't close.
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Dave Wolfe Game Developer, Cosmic Games4 years ago
I haven't worked with the Kinect SDK since the beta a few years ago so things might have changed, but at the time you couldn't distinguish hand gestures because all you got was a blob for the can get its position in 3d space and you can determine the speed, but any hand gestures you want need to be rather broad.

I was doing r&d for a game set in an old Wild West town and you would get into gunfights by making a finger-gun and saying "Bang". It was virtually impossible to make it work with any degree of accuracy so we gave up on the idea. If the new Kinect can distinguish fingers then maybe what you're talking about would be possible, but I still doubt that you can get a consistently accurate experience.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 4 years ago
Kinect could be great for a few things -- I don't know why no one has built a game that allowed you to use military hand motions to give squad commands, for example.
Oh, ho ho... someone did not play that last Steel Battalion game, I see. There was a sort of hand gesture mechanic in that game for simply opening a hatch, getting your AI teammates to respond to some basic orders and some other stuff. Did it work? Hoo boy... nope, not really and not all the time.

That said, I wish From Soft had programmed that one to be played with a standard controller. It had some great ideas for sure, but yikes, was the execution very inconsistent (and VERY dependent on how much time you spent shuffling furniture around and setting up the PERFECT conditions for playing the game so that old Kinect could read gestures properly, which it always didn't - not a good thing for a game that demanded 100% accuracy at every moment)
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 4 years ago
Of all the Kinect games I've owned I've only managed to get all of the achievements in one of them and that was Fruit Ninja Kinect. Thats one of the few kinds of games that Kinect was designed for. The other Kinect game that I'm only missing a few achievements from is Avengers: Battle For Earth. Thats a fighting game and needless to say Kinect does not work well with it. I've had to struggle and grind my way towards my current 93% completion. The experience was way too frustrating for me to want to go thru again.

Kinect can be implemented well(or alteast competently) in certain game types(party, dance, quirky indies like Fruit Ninja) but it's real strength probably lies in it's navigational abilities. That doesn't neccessarily mean that everyone is going to want to use it for that but so far thats been one of the only things it does well.....when it actually works.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 4 years ago
The only thing that struck me as odd in what Carmack said was the lack of a "click". Kinect 2 has finger tracking, no more hover, so I'm wondering how long ago he played with it. Either way, as usual it was fascinating, I can't wait till next year when he's had some time to play with the new hardware.
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd4 years ago
@ Jeff Kinect 2 can't finger track. Hovering will still be necessary.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 4 years ago
Finger was misspoken. Fist tracking. There's plenty of resolution to "click" with. People have been doing it on Windows Kinect for ages
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd4 years ago
@ Jeff Perhaps, but I'd hardly call that a comfortable feedback mechanism. There are a lot of problems with Kinect that are by design. The biggest are the high latency (60ms of latency is extremely obvious even to the uninformed), the massive space requirements, and the microphone being right next to your TV speakers, making shouting necessary for voice commands (even with shouting they work maybe 60% of the time).
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