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Xbox Live Vision Camera Review
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Xbox Live Vision Camera Review

The use of a web cam is nothing new, but when was the last time you got to see who you were playing games against? Sure Xbox Live has voice communication, which the majority of gamers use, but the addition of video adds a whole new element to how gamers interact on Xbox Live. The Xbox Live Vision camera is simply just a normal web cam, built for the Xbox 360, which will display video to other users in the same game. Now Xbox Live users can not only talk amongst themselves, but also see exactly what they are doing and their emotions on their face. Sure it is a pretty cool new feature, but is it worth getting all excited about?

The Vision camera is extremely easy to use and setup. It simply has one USB plug and one adjustable focus and the Xbox 360 does the rest. After you get the camera plugged in, it will instantly start working. Finding a good spot to place the thing is the most difficult part of setting it up, believe it or not. Luckily the camera can tilt and rotate in every which way, so you shouldn't have a problem finding a good spot for it.

After getting it set up, the first thing you will notice is that the dashboard has a new effect going on in the background. The dashboard background displays the input of the Xbox Live Vision camera and then adds a water effect over the video. This looks way better than the default dashboard backgrounds and works almost like a mirror, since it will be displaying whatever the camera is pointed at. Additionally, there are a few other effects that you can fool around with to change the dashboard background, such as dots and an outline.

The main use of the camera though is for in-game video, applications such as character customization, and possible gesture recognition sometime in the future. As of right now though, the camera is only being used in one game, and that game is UNO. If you have a camera plugged into your Xbox 360 and start up a game of UNO, it will automatically start working on multiplayer games. Instead of showing your gamer picture, it will display video from the Vision camera. This video output also shows up on your screen as well, so you will be able to see what you are doing (incase you didn't already know!) Seeing yourself is honestly a bit weird. Before you get used to it, you will probably end up paying more attention your video output instead of the actual card game.

There are plans for games in the near future to use the Vision camera, but very few have announced they are doing this so far. World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions is scheduled to be out before the end of this year and it will use the Xbox Live Vision camera to take a picture of your face and apply it to a character in the game. So it will actually look like you sitting there playing Poker! Rainbow Six Vegas is also supposed to use the camera to do a similar feature with the character creation options.

Besides having your face put on characters, upcoming games could use gesture recognition to control part of the game. For instance, in the upcoming Arcade game Totemball, you will be able to control the ball using your hands. We haven't had the chance to play this title yet and as of yet this is the only game announced that will be using this feature. Once we get the chance though we will be sure to let you know well it works.

Besides the in-game video and other uses, there is also a new option to enter a video chat (instead of just a normal voice chat). The video chat has screens for each person in the chat with a camera and it works very much like a video conference call. You can see both yourself and the other people at the same time along with the voice communication. Not only that, but in this video chat mode, there are a few filters that can be set on the video that look really cool. Some of these filters include: a black and green outline, yellow and black outline, inverse colors, black and white, green, and if for whatever strange reason you wanted the video to be blurry, you can do that too. Anyone can join in on these video chats, even if they don't have a Vision camera.

One last thing that you can do with the Vision camera is take pictures to use on your personal gamercard or to send to others in a message. With the vision camera you can now send a message to another gamer that includes text, voice, and a picture. What else do you need to get your point across? Being able to send video to someone else would be extremely cool, but isn't possible, this is probably do to the fact that it would be a huge bandwidth issue on Microsoft's side.

Changing your personal gamer picture is very easy to do. To change it, you just go into the normal options for changing your picture and then it will give you an option to take a picture. Snap the picture and then you can set it as your personal gamer picture. One downside to this however is that instead of replacing your actual gamer picture, it just gives you another picture and calls it your personal gamer picture. Only your friends can see this picture and there aren't any options to make it your actual gamer picture, so this option isn't as cool as it may sound.

The Xbox Live Vision has a lot of cool features…but how big of a hole is it going to put in your wallet? It depends on what bundled package you pick up. The camera is available in the normal package for $40 or the Gold Pack for $70. Here are the contents of each:

Xbox Live Vision Default Pack

  • Xbox Live Vision camera
  • One-month Xbox Live Gold Subscription
  • Xbox 360 Headset
  • Free downloads of UNO and TotemBall.
  • Price: $40

Xbox Live Vision Gold Pack

  • Xbox Live Vision camera
  • Twelve-month Xbox Live Gold Subscription
  • Xbox 360 Headset
  • Free downloads of UNO, Robotron: 2084, and TotemBall.
  • 200 Microsoft Points
  • Price: $80

Obviously, the biggest difference is that the Gold Pack includes a 12-month Xbox Live subscription, which is actually worth $50, and the default pack only gives you a month (big whoop). So if you are running low on your Live subscription, this is probably the one you will want to pick up.

So is it worth going down to the store right now and picking one of these puppies up? Honestly, right now there aren't very many uses for it. Unless you are just dieing to make your own gamer picture, talk to friends in video chats, and show yourself off to random people playing UNO, you should probably be saving up for some of the hot holiday titles coming out this year. It is probably going to take at least 6-12 months for many game developers to start including this technology into their game; so until then, the Vision camera probably won't get much love. The $80 price tag is worth it only if you need a new subscription to Xbox Live, but otherwise $40 is a lot to pay for a little wimpy web cam. Overall, for right now at least, the Vision camera is only worth its price point if you are in need of a new subscription; otherwise, save up your money for the holiday games coming out real soon and get the vision camera whenever your Live subscription is about to run cold.

Final Rating: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

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