Alas, Kinect, we hardly knew ye.

Microsoft's misunderstood audio-visual peripheral was, at one point, the fastest selling consumer electronics device of all time, believe it or not, with over 10 million units in sales in the first six months. Of course, that was the Xbox 360 version, which was vastly, vastly inferior to the "V2" version we have on the Xbox One and Windows PC.

Despite the superior power of Kinect V2, a combination of poor messaging, bad positioning, and lackluster software support las led Kinect V2 as an Xbox accessory down the path of obscurity in recent years. The technology Kinect spawned lives on as part of HoloLens and Microsoft's partnered Mixed Reality headsets, and Kinect itself has been used in a wide array of bespoke projects in various other types of industries. Where Kinect hasn't shined, however, is Xbox One. That's not to say it's useless however, far from it. Kinect simply wasn't allowed to realize its full potential.

Regardless, of Microsoft's near-complete abandonment of the accessory, is it worth buying in 2017? Here are a few reasons I still have mine hooked up, and why you might want to give it a try.

Voice controls

Probably the best reason to get a Kinect right now is the voice commands it enables, allowing you to navigate the dashboard, control media, and even your TV itself with proper setup. You can issue commands like "Xbox, play Battlefield 1," or "Xbox, turn up the volume," and you can turn up the functionality to 11 by enabling Cortana (while sacrificing some usability in the process).

Cortana will allow you to issue more complex commands like "What's the weather like?" and "What is my friend Dave doing?" You can even do things like set and receive reminders, and enjoy the vast majority of Cortana features that are available on Windows 10. That said, she is sadly incredibly unresponsive compared to the stock Xbox voice commands that are enabled by default. I could write a rant about how Cortana and Kinect could've been Microsoft's "Amazon Echo," but let's save that for another day.

Ultimately, Kinect will enhance your Xbox media viewing experience by giving you access to voice commands, providing you set up the microphones correctly. It doesn't always work, of course, and can be a little frustrating if it fails multiple times, but I'll say this; when it's gone, I really miss it.

Using Cortana on Xbox One with Kinect: Command List

IR blaster

Now, the Xbox One S comes with an IR Blaster as standard, meaning that it can send signals to your television to control volume and power, but if you're using the original Xbox One, you'll need a Kinect to get that functionality.

The IR blaster isn't only useful for controlling your TV, however. If your Xbox is tucked neatly away behind your television or you want to place it in a cupboard or something, you might have trouble registering your Xbox controllers wirelessly. The Kinect boosts the wireless range of the Xbox controllers by a significant amount, which can be useful in certain situations. It's definitely something to keep in mind.

Games

Microsoft blundered when they launched the Kinect V2, bundling it with the Xbox One and driving up the total price. To bring that price tag back down, the Kinect was sacrificed on the altar of capitalism. The stigma it generated led to decreased interest, and decreased usage led to developer abandonment. There simply aren't many Kinect games launching for this thing anymore, but that doesn't mean there isn't a decent back catalog of games you can pick up and play today.

Most of the games are very suitable for children, and can be a fun way for them to play and exercise at the same time. Games like Kinect Sports and Disney's Fantasia really showcase how Kinect can appeal to younger audiences, or even older gamers who want to be more active (i.e. not me). There are even a couple of games that are more suited to older gamers, such as the whimsical D4 or the violent (and racy) Blue Estate. There's a few older core Xbox One games such as RYSE and Dragon Age Inquisition that support voice commands for casting spells and using abilities, too.

We have a bigger list of the best Xbox One Kinect games over here, and Microsoft even announced some older Xbox 360 Kinect titles will be ported over to Xbox One in the near future.

Best Xbox One Kinect Games

Final thoughts

Kinect might not be the Amazon Echo competitor it was could've (should've) been, nor did it change the way we interact with games forever. The tech might live on the likes of HoloLens, but Microsoft seems pretty much done with supporting the technology on Xbox One. That said, I always miss it when it's not plugged in. Considering you can find it for around $45 on Amazon these days, for me, it would be a no brainer to buy a new one if I somehow couldn't use my current one. I love being able to control my TV with voice, I do occasionally use Cortana commands as well, and the improved range on the IR blaster gels nicely with my personal set up. I rarely use it to game, but my younger relatives sometimes do, and sometimes it's a little fun to join as well.

If Microsoft ever, ever starts turning up the heat on Amazon's Alexa platform, then it could really come into its own with Cortana, but that remains to be seen. For now, it's all about media control and casual games.

What do you think of Microsoft's Kinect in 2017? Hit the comments, and let me know if there's any aspects I've forgotten to mention.

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