New Kinect feature turns Xbox avatars into virtual chatters

Posted by Mike Luttrell

From day one, Microsoft said the technology that eventually became Kinect would be more than just a new game controller. It'd be a way to revolutionize the entire console experience. It's latest bid to make good on that promise is a feature called Avatar Kinect.

At his CES keynote, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said Kinect's holiday sales shot past company expectations, and everyone continues to work on making it bigger and better.

Upcoming new features to Kinect include the ability to use voice recognition and hand gestures to operate the Netflix app as well as the console's version of Hulu Plus.

And then there's Avatar Kinect, a brand new feature for the motion camera. One of the funnest things to do with Kinect is just wave your hands around and see how the camera's motion detection technology follows your movements. But there's no real avenue to just make your on-screen avatar move around with you, so that's where Avatar Kinect comes in.

Part tech demo and part chatting service, Avatar Kinect will let players converse with one another online, in a virtual environment where each player's avatar interacts with one another. Along with the launch of the new feature, it will also bring the ability to track facial expressions, like when you open your mouth to talk or when you raise your eyebrows.

Avatar Kinect will launch in the spring and will be a "free" service. However, like virtually everything else on the Xbox 360's online platform, you have to subscribe to Xbox Live's monthly or annual fees to be able to use it.