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Can Kinect handle a player lying down? Yes and no

Kyle Orland

Amidst all the hubbub around the question of whether Kinect can or can't handle a player sitting on a couch, one related question seems to have been lost: Can Kinect handle players lying on the floor? This important issue was finally addressed at a session of the Develop Conference in Brighton today, and the answer is a definitive "kind of."

Speaking at the session, Blitz Games CTO Andrew Oliver said his team ran into this very issue when developing their The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout game for Kinect. Many of the exercises on The Biggest Loser TV show, such as push-ups and certain yoga poses, require lying on the ground.

Replicating these in the game offered a new challenge for Microsoft's 3D motion sensing hardware, and apparently it's a test the hardware fails. Oliver reported lying on the ground fundamentally breaks the 3D skeleton of your body detected by the Kinect camera and technology. "We had to consider, would this skeletal tracking ever realistically be able to work out that a player is laying on the floor," Oliver said. "We asked – believe me we asked – and we were told it wasn't going to happen."

"If you want to design a seated experience, you can design a seated experience."- Rare's Nick Burton

The case of the lying down Kinect player doesn't quite end there, though. Oliver said that after a bit of tinkering, the Blitz team found that Kinect could still successfully detect a push-up simply by observing the player silhouette transmitted by the system's camera. While the solution required a bit of extra coding on the developer's part, Oliver said that what the team came up with demonstrates the versatility of the Kinect hardware in the hands of a resourceful developer. "You don't need to rely on the system," Oliver said. "You can write your own [detection routine] if you know what you're looking for."

As for the old sitting versus standing canard, Oliver said the results depend largely on what you're trying to do with your game. Navigating menus from a seated position works jut fine, for instance, and Oliver said players are sitting in nearly half the scenes included in the Kinect version of Yoostar movie karaoke that Blitz is working on. Oliver's presentation partner, Rare's Nick Burton, said his company didn't really prototype any seated experiences when they were designing Kinect Sports. That said, "if you want to design a seated experience, you can design a seated experience," Burton stated firmly.

[Editor's note: Top image is from a tech demo released by PrimeSense, creators of the Kinect technology.]

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