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Nyko Zoom for Kinect hands-on

Nyko Zoom for Kinect hands-on
Sean Buckley
Sean Buckley|@seaniccus|October 20, 2011 11:40 AM
Microsoft's next Xbox 360 Dashboard update may be packing enough deep Kinect integration to make your inner Anderton tingle with glee, but it won't do you much good if you live in a shoebox apartment, cramped dorm, or happen to own a couch. For all of its fun tricks, the Xbox's depth sensor is woefully farsighted, and doesn't play nice if you stand too close. What's a motion loving, spatiality challenged gamer to do? Well, we've heard of one option.

Nyko announced the Zoom for Kinect quite some time ago, making lofty promises of reducing the sensor's minimum required play distance by up to 40 percent. It performed notably well when we gave it a whirl at E3, but with Redmond's Kinect heavy Dashboard redesign just around the corner, we thought we'd give it a second look.
Contrary to its name, the Nyko Zoom actually gives the Kinect a wider view of your living room. The attachment's fisheye lens broadens the sensor's point of view, theoretically giving you more playing space. Does it? Mostly. Kinect Adventures seemed perfectly happy to watch us jump, kick, and flail about in wide-vision, letting us rally balls and rush rivers from a comfortable five feet -- easily closer than Kinect's recommended 6-8 foot distance. Dance Central didn't mind our fresh perspective either, and most of the Fun Labs content we tested didn't bat an eye at the sensor's new prescription. We did hit a few snags, however -- although navigation was generally smooth, the cursor would occasionally jump and stutter. Menu items nestled in the corners of the screen can be difficult to toggle, and we found that smaller framed gamers sometimes had to stand closer to the sensor to be recognized properly. Our dainty cohort had to stand as close as four feet from the TV to be recognized during a round of Dance Central.

The fisheye distortion also caused some apps to misjudge the subject's posture, lining up with Kinect Me's scanning pose, for instance, required thrusting one's hips back while leaning forward. Despite these gripes, we can't say that the Nyko Zoom doesn't deliver on its promise. On average, the sensor's new specs brought us two feet closer to our TV -- that's 25 percent if we're averaging against the high end of Microsoft's six-to-eight foot recommended playing distance. Although that's not quite the 40 percent the box claims, keep in mind that our experience is offset by us not wanting to stand eye-meltingly close to our 40-inch set. If you don't have a large living space and can wrestle with a few quirks, this peripheral could easily be worth your $30. At the end of the day, the Nyko Zoom got us off the couch and playing Kinect without making us rearrange our furniture, and lets be honest, that's all we really wanted anyway.