Let’s start with the coolest bit of news straight from Redmond. Microsoft is pushing out a Star Wars-themed Xbox 360 bundle to celebrate to release of Star Wars Kinect. The Xbox 360 Limited Edition Kinect Star Wars bundle includes an R2-D2-themed Xbox 360 console with custom sounds, a C-3PO-themed golden wireless controller, a white Kinect sensor, a 320GB HDD, a wired headset, and copies of Star Wars Kinect and Kinect Adventures. The bundle’s price: $449.99. It’s available for preorder today, comes out this fall.
Next up is the Xbox 360 Wireless Headset with Bluetooth. The sleek new headset connects to the Xbox through the console’s standard radio frequencies, and since it packs Bluetooth functionality it can double as a regular old BT headset and pair with your mobile phone and computer. The communication device goes on sale early November 2011 and will cost $59.99. Jump after the break to watch Major Nelson give a quick tour of the packaging.
Also announced was the Xbox 360 Media Remote. Media playback controls include play/pause, skip forward, fast forward, skip back, fast back, and display to control DVD, CD, or streamed media. The TV controls include power on/off, volume up/down, mute and TV input. The Xbox 360 Media Remote’s menu navigation controls include A, B, X, Y buttons, D-pad navigation, back and select. Live TV, if provided on the Xbox 360 by your TV service provider, can also be controlled with the remote. It’ll cost $19.99 when it comes out alongside the wireless headset this November.
And last, but certainly not least, is Avatar Kinect. Explains Microsoft: “Avatar Kinect is a new social entertainment experience that brings your avatar to life. Avatar Kinect captures your facial expressions and voice so when you smile, nod or speak, your avatar does the same. Invite up to seven friends to join you in 24 imaginative virtual stages – discuss the latest celebrity gossip or news on the Talk Show Stage, try out your hysterical comedy routine on the Performance Stage, or wager who will win the big game in the Sports Party Stage.” The experience gets even more social as the Kinect sensor can record your sessions and you can upload them to KinectShare.com, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. After the break you’ll find a short video demonstrating the software’s abilities.
Also out is Kinect Sparkler, a fun Kinectified app that “transforms simple finger painting into an aerial light show” using advanced finger tracking. Kinect Avatar and Kinect Sparkler are out now; the former is free to all Xbox LIVE Gold members (it is unlocked for all Xbox LIVE members (Free or Gold) to enjoy from 7/25 to 9/8) and the latter costs 240 Microsoft Points. Both can be found in Kinect Fun Labs section in Xbox LIVE.
Microsoft has announced a new Kinect-specific update for Xbox 360 owners. Here’s out the makers explain it: “With Avatar Kinect, you can control your avatar’s facial expression, head, and arm movements. As you talk, frown, smile, or scowl, your voice and facial expressions are enacted by your avatar, bringing your avatar to life!” In other words, the update will give you a more detailed level of control over your avatar. Right now the Kinect captures basic movements, such as arm flails, moving side-to-side, jumping, and ducking. With Avatar Kinect, the sensor will be able to recognize a new slate of physical actions. Microsoft is highlighting a virtual hangout where you can meet up with up to seven friends and converse with them using your avatars. You’ll be able to select from 15 virtual environments. Think of it as Wii’s Mii Plaza, except this space will allow for broader interaction (detailed avatar movements performed by you, voice support). Avatar Kinect will hit Xbox 360s later this spring. Look after the break to see it in action.
In related Kinect news… At CES 2011 Microsoft announced that they sold 8 million Kinect sensors worldwide during its first 60 days on the market; they sold 3 million more devices than they had predicted they would during that launch window. More news… In a spring update, Hulu Plus will be joining Netflix, expanding users’ options when it comes to TV and movie content. In addition, the two services will be Kinect-compatible.