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Making Kinect Work Around The World

Posted on Tuesday, March 1 @ 06:41:03 Eastern by


This may be an obvious statement, but it catches some people off guard: People in other countries work different from you - more than just general skin color, customs, or language, but in their hand gestures, their pigmentations, and the dialects of their official language. And for an electronic device based on gestures and voice, that can spell disaster. Just trying to imagine how the Kinect works with all the dialects in China is enough to make me cry for programmers who have to parse.

Kinect sold 8 million units around the world in 60 days, but none of that was easy. Beyond dealing with security and game-rating agencies in different countries, there is the issue of space, especially when considering the size of apartments in Tokyo. And then there is testing space, one large space for every Kinect for every language. In Tokyo, that actually meant using a basement with boxes piled in the corner... for one testing area.

Then comes the issue of fatigue and bug capturing for the Kinect. Imagine having to play Kinect for 10 hours, let alone for a week nonstop. Thus, paired testing made much more sense - with one tester playing and one tester reporting bugs, who both then swap tasks whenever the Kinect player is about to feint on the floor after playing with a virtual cat. Luckily for the testers, they could cheat a bit, like debug unlock-all cheats and for Dance Central sitting on a seat and using a keyboard to input dance moves. (Posers...)

On gestures, different cultures have different hand language signals that are important to note. This becomes an issue when you don't want players to use potentially negative gestures in their culture, like exposing your palm in Greece or showing the bottom of one's feet in the Middle East. Dance Central poses plenty of problems - the general rock 'n' roll hand sign means 'someone is screwing your wife in Italy. Eek. So having to go through every animation to make sure everything is family-friendly is an arduous task.

For speech, voice commands is difficult, with different grammar rules and detection rules. A language like Japanese has multiple phrases for one idea like "Come here!" in Kinectimals. This game had to be localized
in more than 15 languages, with each language needed to be spoken naturally by a voice actor, as regular players might speak with the right context. For instance, "Muerto!" in Mexican Spanish can be used to say "Play dead!" but it can also mean "Dead!", which can be offensive or uncomfortable for parents, so they added
three variances of that command.

The localization team also had to use at least 4 male and 4 female voice testers with different tonal qualities to make sure that the majority of voices are recognized. The hardest thing for the Kinectimals team was actually child labor laws, of all things, in different countries for recording children's voices - this is where having Microsoft lawyers ready is a great thing. The main way around this was to have children volunteer (with parental supervision).

Localization is already difficult for text-based games, so localizing Kinect games is almost as difficult as making the game itself. The amount of time and money getting gestures and speech is mind-boggling on a global scale. So then, do I have a newfound appreciation? Check, sí, and hai!
Related Games:   Dance Central, Kinectimals
Tags:   GDC
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