Getting your kicks with Kinect for Windows
A wall, a ball, and a kid: think about it. When you were a youngster on a playground, and a wall and a ball were at hand, what would you do? If you were like most kids, you’d kick or throw that ball against the wall, moving around with the unbridled energy of youth as the ball bounced back to you, again and again.
It’s exactly that sort of natural, simple exercise that Wall Ball, a Kinect for Windows game, seeks to recreate. Or as psychologist and game developer Tino Ågren of Mixxus Studio says, “A kid in the schoolyard moves around without thinking about it being ‘exercise.’ I like games to work in the same way—you turn Wall Ball on and start moving around, getting your pulse up, just because it’s fun.”
With Wall Ball, you don’t need a playground or a physical wall or ball—just a Kinect for Xbox One sensor and a Kinect Adapter for Windows, which allows the sensor to be hooked up to a compatible Windows PC. You can download the game itself from the Windows Store.
During game play, the Kinect sensor’s skeletal tracking follows your movements as you simulate kicking an onscreen soccer ball (you get five balls in each round). Every time one of your kicks hits the wall, you score a point—and you can earn bonus points when you hit objects that randomly appear on the wall. You also need to watch the ball as it rebounds from the wall—if you let it get past you, you’ll be penalized one ball. The game offers three levels of play: easy (or beginner), standard, and seated mode (for use by people with mobility issues).
In creating Wall Ball, Ågren used the Kinect Unity package in the Kinect for Windows SDK 2.0, which allowed him to develop the entire game in Unity. The physics simulations, which enable the skeletal tracking to accurately predict the flight of the ball, were the biggest challenge. Once he had the physics down, he knew he was on the way to creating an enjoyable way to burn off some physical energy anytime you have a few minutes. Ågren is especially happy to have made the game available through the Windows Store, which he feels is “a really good platform…a good way to reach a lot of different people.”
He hopes to see Wall Ball and Country Ramble, another of Mixxus Studio’s Kinect for Windows games, reach beyond typical video gamers. He even foresees their use in retirement homes, helping elderly folks stay physically active by playing fun games that don’t require a mastery of electronic controllers. A blessing also for those of us who are still trying to figure out our TV universal remotes!
The Kinect for Windows Team