John Carmack: Kinect is “Fundamentally a Poor Interaction”; PS Move has “Fundamental Advantages”

Legendary Developer and id Software Technical Director John Carmack had a lot of good things to say about both next generation consoles during his keynote at Quakecom 2013, but he had a lot less love to share about Microsoft’s Kinect, criticizing his latency, framerate and mode of interaction with the user.

Microsoft is putting a lot behind things like Kinect that…you know…I’m still not really sold on Kinect. I recognize that what I need and desire as a game developer or what I use the technology for might not cover the broad consumer base that they’re looking for, so it’s their play to make, but I think Kinect still has some fundamental limitations with the latency and the framerate on it.

When you interact with Kinect some of the standard interaction there like position and hold, waiting for different things…it’s fundamentally a poor interaction and one way that I look at it is…I used to give Apple a lot of grief about the one-button mouse when anybody working with the mouse really wanted more buttons. Kinect is sort of like a zero-button mouse with a lot of latency on it.

(Editor’s note: here the audience exploded in applause and cheering while Carmack tried hard not to laugh, can’t say I don’t see why…)

You move around and you select something, but because you can’t snap your finger at it and make something happen…you have to wait for a time period or have some other trigger section there… Things like the PS Move where you’re maneuvering around and you actually got buttons on it, or something like the Razer Hydra, where you got position tracking but also buttons to click, I think have some fundamental advantages.

It’s possible that, as we get finer and finer grain control of the tracking, maybe you can start telling intentional little taps of the finger in virtual space, and that will help some of it, but I’m still not completely sold on it.

Kinect as far as waving hands around and moving things, it is still at least a directly proportional user interface, like a mouse, where you can say “I’m moving six inches here and it’s going to be proportional that six inches of moving” which puts it in a better category than analog thumbsticks, where you’re integrating your motion over time, but you’re not directly manipulating things, bcause you’re moving your hand here, but your watching the screen over there to see what’s happening.

(Editor’s note: have fun deciphering the next paragraph, as Carmack went down the tangent a little bit here…)

It’s possible, if you had a viewer relative game, if you were using Kinect as sort of you social party game, or multiple people are playing, and at the same time when you are looking at the screen and you track where the viewers eyes was, and you knew where their hand was in perspective space, you could then sorta do…OK i’m touching that, i’m moving that over there. You would still have all the latency issues to deal with there, but it would be a much more direct interface.

Things like body tracking will have more benefit when you got things like a virtual reality system where you can see your rendered virtual hand interacting with rendered virtual things, so it’s a technology that absolutely has a future, and Microsoft is pushing it hard, they’ve done a lot of excellent research with it, but I’m still not completely convinced that that’s the cornerstone of the next gaming platform.

hard to disagree with Carmack here.Microsoft still has a lot to demonstrate with Kinect, especially due to the fact that with the Xbox One it’ll be mandatory. If you want to check out the whole Keynote for yourself (it’s extremely interesting, so it’s worth about three hours of your life) you can find it in the playlist below. The part reported in this post is at the 25:40 mark in the first video.

Join the Discussion

  • iamyourgodbeotch

    this guy has well and truly lost his marbles.. thats 2 back 2 back bold statements that are massive fails..


    For me it is somewhat clear that he is talking about the firts Kinect. The tech demo of the “new” one is kind amazing, latency seems to be dealt with and you don’t need to “hold” anymore, just “clicking” on air with your finger is enough as Kinect 2.0 can track individual finger positions.

    • Arron Clements

      The tech demo of the first kinect was amazing, it’s just that it was 90% BS. I don’t trust a single thing put out by MS at all.

    • Joseph Lan

      How can you state that the latency issues “seem to have been solved” when you haven’t even used it yet?

    • Guest

      Yeah, he really was talking about the first Kinect. I have used Kinect on the Xbox One at E3 and it is much more responsive and now that it recognises fingers it has much more operability to it.
      In motion control IMHO both are useless, but the new Kinect is definitely a big improvement over its predecessor.

    • Hurtfultimez

      Kinect 2 can track a finger and a thumb and can tell if your hand is open or closed. It cant however track individual fingers which is a bit daft considering everything else it can do

    • stopshortorgolong

      I agree xburg. He must be talking about Kinekt one and I’m sure he hasn’t got his hands on the new one yet. I’m not sold on motion controls yet either but I can’t wait til Sony or MS does it right and we can have some great fighting and sports titles for motion controls. Imagine a great Knockout Kings or Tiger Woods…..UFC? That’s the shite I’m waiting for. The future will be the scene from The Island when Scarlett and Ewan MaG. go at it on a future xbox on holodec.

  • theodor70941

    MS… you mad?

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  • spideynut71

    It’s obvious Carmack has spent ZERO time with Kinect 2.0, and is just regurgitating what he said a few years back about the original tech.

    • Giuseppe Nelva

      you seem to think you know better than him. Got a devkit at home? 😀

      • spideynut71

        Um…I can read. He mentions NOTHING about the new hardware or features ; he’s still talking about last gen tech. And, BTW, Carmack has publicly endorsed Oculus Rift…which makes him a raging hypocrite.

        • stopshortorgolong

          And Carmack should be working on some decent games. id hasn’t put out anything good for eons now. Rage was a joke. I’m hoping Doom 4 will be good but I’m skeptical cause Doom 3 wasn’t that great.

  • Robin Seaman

    I agree with John on the original Kinect 100%, but Kinect 2.0 is more accurate and precise but can’t do the stuff you can do with hardware that have buttons. NO MOTION GAMING BS,

  • clearwoodbellawater

    It has to prove its worth to gamers, and Microsoft seem content to just sit back and count their bucks from having forced consumers to buy it instead of creating things for the thing….Hell even Sony has the playroom stuff for free on launch day to utilize their OPTIONAL ps eye, why does microsoft not have a single Kinect game coming until 2014? Sure there are claims that all of the launch titles will be “better w/ kinect”, but didn’t that happen last gen, only equating to things like vocal grenade tosses, and other “features” that are used once then ignored? What is the definition of insanity again? Look it seems fairly obvious that this thing is being heavily integrated as a device for Microsoft, not the consumer…it’s a data tracking, copyright enforcing brick that could render your console inoperable w/o its connection, and Microsoft need to hurry up and justify the thing. This whole “Forcing it in every system allows developers to create w/ it in place” argument is just absurd, especially coming from people who will say in the same breath that they don’t like motion controls, or had bad experiences w/ the first kinect. Forcing every console box to contain an exploding controller would let devs create games knowing they can blow the hands off of the player, but that doesn’t make that a “feature”

  • clif J

    Gamers would much rather aim precisely and realistically with the PlayStation move then just go pew, pew, pew with their fingers with Kinect.

  • zango

    No matter how much Microsoft improves the resolution of Kinect it will never be as precise as Move.

    • BeCk

      Exactly. Kinect is just guessing what you are doing by looking at your hand movements…The PS-Move is using both a cam and senors to know precisely how you are moving the controller.

  • cheno

    Devs know we need precision and buttons in gaming controls….That is why they pick move over kinect.

  • motionexpert

    PlayStation Move is fundamentally better then Kinect because It fills dumb to pretend to be manipulating/using something without having anything in your hand.

    • mcherress

      Was thinking the same thing. How can you possibly interact precisely and realistically with something in a videogame without having something in your hand? (And Move allows that.)

      • DaFFyy

        If you want true, 1:1 gameplay you are going to have to have a controller with senors in like Move.

      • gooN

        People want to aim with a precise controller like PS Move in fps; not with their fingers on a Kinect.

  • needsjelly

    Sony is really missing out by not packing in the PlayStation Move and Camera with the PS4.

    • ZoooooM

      True. once people realized how much better the controls are with Move they wouldnt want to go back to a DuelShock.

      • imoved

        The only reason the PlayStation Move didn’t sell better then it did was because of a huge lack of support from major developers.

        • chuck d

          Well, lack of games and Sony not explaining to gamers/dev’s and the press how to use the move correctly and the value it can add to games.

        • Mirimon

          you know.. move not only had more games for it than kinect, but sold more than kinect… (when counting real sales.. not “sales” manufactured because a title was part of a trashware bundle with a piece of hardware…)

  • orangpelupa

    thats the reason many Kinect game sux.

    Developer keep forgetting that Kinect is a NEW kind of control method. Don’t use it to emulate current control method, INVENT new ways to control your game that optimized for Kinect.

    Don’t use Kinect to emulate mouse click.

    There are a few games that works great on kinect.
    Child of Eden (better with big projector to wall)
    Kinect Sports
    YourShape Fitness (the old one, not the new one).
    and… err.. nothing else? :p

    its the same problem that Tablet/smartphone games got. Developers just use the Touchscreen to emulate analog stick or button.

    Design your game for touchscreen, it will have great control experience (for example Civ5).