Hands up, down, and around with Kinect for Xbox One

The original Kinect always felt like a beta. It was the first implementation of something we collectively imagined should be much better. Our vision of Kinect had it be more precise, less laggy, and more natural to use. And that's precisely what Kinect for Xbox One is.

Following its Xbox One reveal event, Microsoft invited us to get "hands on" time with a few tech demos--the ones that you can see here. Because none of these demos represent actual gameplay, it's difficult to gauge how well this tech can be implemented. However, the potential is very real--and our excitement for Kinect has been rekindled.

A series of demos showcased not only skeletal tracking, but the force of your muscles as well. We had ample room to test the device multiple lighting conditions--even in total darkness, with a flashlight. We got to see how close--and how far--we could get to the camera. We jumped up, kicked, did squats, twisted our arms, played air piano, sat down, and Kinect never missed a beat.

At least in this test environment, running non-game software, the new Kinect works exactly as I hoped it would. However, the single demo that convinced me the most was Kinect's ability to supposedly track your heart rate. I stared into the camera sternly, and then went on to do jumping jacks and run in place (in front of an audience, mind you). I saw a meter quickly rise, and slowly fall after I had stopped my physical activity. I laughed when I saw the feedback--and of course, Kinect recognized that too.

The new Kinect promises to make using Xbox One far easier than ever. Thanks to its wide-angle lens, more living rooms will be compatible with the sensor. And because you can use it from as close as a meter, even more cramped spaces will be compatible. In fact, you won't even need to bother with those silly calibration cards that shipped with every original Kinect unit.

Like PS4, Xbox One will also be able to keep track of who's using which controller. Thanks to IR emitters built into the Xbox One controller, Kinect will be able to see who's playing with which controller. Should you swap places (or swap controllers), the system will know--allowing developers to automatically swap screens in a split-screen game, for example.

Kinect comes bundled with every Xbox One, and you cannot use the system without Kinect plugged in. (Thankfully, that means you won't need a separate AC adapter for the camera this time around.) While some hardcore gamers may scoff at having Kinect constantly staring at them, it's undeniable that the tech is impressive. Now, the question is: can Microsoft showcase games that deliver on the incredible potential of this new device?