Microsoft Kinect FAIL For Gamers Who Use Wheelchairs

Jan 04, 2011
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Microsoft’s wildly popular Kinect gaming system could have changed the game for players who have disabilities such as cerebral palsy and would otherwise be unable to use a gaming controller. But Microsoft dropped the ball on this one.

The Microsoft Kinect device responds to how you move — your hand can be the controller. But the Xbox 360 motion sensor device is a complete FAIL for any person seated in a wheelchair.  Microsoft developed Kinect so that only people who are standing are recognized by the full-body motion-control system.

Susanna Martini has cerebral palsy and her family Christmas present was the Kinect gaming system. Susanna said she couldn’t wait to play the Kinect XBox 360 controller-free games with her husband and 3-year old daughter. However, as reported by KomoNews, Susanna went from wildly excited to really disappointed. She said, “Kinect has no clue that I even exist, it’s like I’m completely invisible to it.”

Microsoft’s PR quickly issued the following statement: “The initial wave of Kinect games were designed to be very active to take advantage of the sensor’s ability to track full-body motion, and as a result, may be difficult or simply not possible to play in a seated position. We’re working to improve Kinect’s skeletal tracking technology in ways that will help developers create games that incorporate seated play.”

Susanna said she didn’t expect to be able to play soccer on the Kinect, “but I want to be able to play one game.” As Kinect is now, Susanna is completely left out when her family plays.

Prior to Kinect’s release, it was discovered that players with black skin had trouble being recognized by Microsoft’s facial recognition element in the device. Some people might wonder if Kinect was primarily created for white-skinned people who can stand and dance.

Microsoft also wanted to point out that “seated users can enjoy controller-free entertainment features like ESPN on XBox Live, Zune, and Video Kinect.” Wow, seriously Microsoft? That is super weak. There are thousands of gamers who use wheelchairs. Does Microsoft really think watching someone on ESPN is the same as playing a game? Maybe it does since it made Kinect so that gamers in wheelchairs can only be spectators there too.

As a mother of gamer who happens to need a wheelchair full-time to get around, I’m really aggravated at Microsoft. A wheelchair may be her seat but it is also her legs and how she walks. Thanks so very much Microsoft for look of utter disappointment on her face when she too was not recognized by the Kinect and was instead forced to be an onlooker and a virtual outsider among her gaming friends. So what if she was raised to participate in life instead of being merely a spectator…?

I hope lots of people “yell” about this issue as Microsoft needs to rectify this discriminating oversight immediately. Microsoft is a major player and it should be ashamed.

Author: Tessa

  • barbmanning

    This makes you wonder how diverse Microsoft’s development team is. These sorts of diversity issues should not keep happening.

  • Tridis

    Rational thought fail for the author of this article. First off it really sucks that the woman in this article cant use the kinect with her kid they way she wanted to. With that said though you would think that a person in a wheelchair would have done a little research about something like the kinect before getting one. The kinect is advertised using your whole body to play games while standing and moving around, I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen it shown as a great tool for disabled people. It would be great if it would work that way and maybe one day it will but assuming it does anything other then advertised is a fail. This also comes from a person who is colorblind(not comparing myself to someone with a real disability) and I long for the day that game devs put a little more time into making games that everyone can play on the same level(pun intended).

  • kk

    No disrespect intended, but we’ve had traditional controllers for years. If you can’t jump and dance then the Kinect is not for you.

    What’s next? An outcry from people in wheelchairs because they can’t climb mountains or swim?

    Just being realistic here. I have all the respect in the world for those confined to wheelchairs. Too many people in this world today think everyone owes them something.

  • Dan

    Handicapped gamers are a relatively small sized market, but definitely an existing one and shouldn’t be overlooked. That having been said, this is a bit like criticizing traditional game controllers for not catering to people with symbrachydactyly (lack of fingers).

    Kinect is certainly not an end-all be-all accessibility device for disabled gamers, but perhaps it isn’t intended to be, just as the traditional methods of interaction aren’t intended to be. Thus, you shouldn’t criticize it for failing to deliver on this.

    Perhaps microsoft will be able to update the software on kinect or include greater accessibility options in later versions of the device, but that would be an added benefit, not fulfillment of the device’s original intentions.

  • Brenden

    Why does this blog seem to think this was a willful design by Microsoft, as opposed to what it really is: another tough technological hurdle that has to be overcome. Programming advanced 3-dimensional motion detecting isn’t some magical process where you input your intentions and it outputs a functional product.

    I’m sure Microsoft would love Kinect functionality to be available and functional for people in all possible circumstances, but in many cases (as is the case with wheelchair-bound gamers), there is a significant roadblock in the programming that is not trivial to overcome.

  • Drzoidberg

    I bet you get fired as soon as you break a limb if you are working for Microsoft…

  • Guest

    Some of the comments here have been pretty disrespectful and show a ton of arrogance and ignorance. I will say that I would imagine Microsoft wanted to include as many people as they could but due to certain circumstances they had to limit Kinect in certain ways to keep it affordable to the average consumer yet profitable at the same time. I highly doubt Microsoft intended to be discriminating to potential consumers. With this new craze with Wii, Kinect, and Playstation Move to get people to be more active by design not all games will allow people to sit.
    Also, I remember seeing another article where an HP computer with a camera with face detection could not detect an African American man when his Caucasian female colleague was show it to him and it was a problem HP could not seem to rectify at that point in time. I’m sorry that people with physical disabilities cannot use it. As a suggestion I would suggest trying the Wii or Playstation move as a substitute.

  • BobLovesGames

    Kinect does work with players that are sitting. Not all developers making these games have this functionality, and this is not a decision that Microsoft has total authority over. Try Kinect JoyRide or Kinectimals for two titles that I know have this functionality, but there are a few others as well.

    To call Microsoft out is uneducated and appalling, and maybe you should “yell” at the developers that are not including these features. Some games will never have seated support as these have been design decisions (As in Kinect Adventures). Microsoft allows these developers the freedoms to choose how they want to include all or any of the features that this device is capable of, and if they decide that a player that is seated might not be beneficial to the experience then who are you to get on your high horse.

    I do think Microsoft could make this easier for the consumer by having some type of notification that the title does support players that are seated on the retail box, but am outraged that the author feels the need to demonize the company that has limited control over the development of most games.

    To the author:
    You should be ashamed to call yourself a reporter for your lack of research. What would you do? You do not give any solutions to the problem as you see them, besides call for people to take up arms and ensure Microsoft rectifies an oversight(that is really not an oversight). Are you mad that the title that was included with the Sensor does not at least inform the consumer that players can not play that title while being seated? Maybe that should be your argument instead of attacking the company with false information.

  • Guard McToasty

    i believe posting issues like these about new product developments is responsible for afflicting many disabled Americans. i understand the tragedy and trauma that many brave men and women face everyday due to general adversary against disabled Americans, but i consider this article to be more harmful than good toward there cause. Yes! this article does point out the fundamental problems with the xbox 360 kinect system, it was meant to be a full body motion gaming device and it never hid that matter in its countless advertisements for the system, its not also to say that ps3 has a more developed and diversified staff that worked on its move motion controller. These two systems have both been produced to be easily accessible to the public and sadly disabled Americans are not part of that but are a minority. i find it completely baffling that Susanna family would purchase this product knowing the intentions of how it operates and also knowledgeable of Susanna disabilities, i do not mean to say that these products will never be available to the disabled public but as of yet i haven’t heard an argument towards why an f-22 raptor fighter jet has not become accessible for the disabled when it is produced with tax payers money and supported by the government who passed the disabled Americans act. understandably we have to consider that the times ahead for disabled Americans will in fact become better but we have to consider rationally on what are the true needs of Americas disabled and rally behind those real causes. the pandering of these petty issues easily bring up common sense towards how they where meant to function and be used.As Frederick II said ” he who defends everything defends nothing” and that is what i believe anyone who faces discrimination should idealize , winning these small battles means nothing when we still have to finish the war. i do not hold ill wishes towards Tessa but i believe she has written this in hopes of infuriating disabled americans to lobby against xbox and other consumer products that have been developed biased the needs of some. disabled americans should be considered fighters of what really important and not complainers.The integration of disabled students to regular classrooms and destroying the public perspective towards what you all can and will achieve needs to hold more importance in an discussion rather than why the xbox kinect wont work for us. We need to focus on the big picture and what we really need to expend our energy on, that is the day when i no longer have to include disabled but solely consider us all as americans, us all as people.

  • TheMightyBigE

    In a way, I do see the concern amongst disabled people and their families. It is, however, unrealistic to think any one product, no matter how long a development it has undergone is going to be perfect. The programming behind the Kinect is impossibly complex, and it tracks movements astoundingly well. Wheelchairs, cruches, or any other signigant prosthetic cause a list of problems. Wheelchairs require arms to move and have moving parts the kinect can’t be expected to detect and there is also the fact those confined to a wheelchair must use their arms in order to manuever through their enviroment. Which makes any motion based game for Kinect nearly impossible to play as thus far jumping, jogging in place, squating, etc are all parts of Kinect gameplay. It is entirely likely that a game that is friendly towards both fully capable individuals and those of disabled status will be released and I respect the fact that everyone, normal or disabled, holds to some degree similar expectations. It is, however, both unfair and unreasonable to assume that Microsoft does not realize this problem. The Kinect is still a new thing to most people and has only been out for a few months. Game developement takes time, ranging any where from one to five years. Not to mention game developers can only build games based on the current software from Microsoft, so it’s a group effort not just one individual, organization, or company making a mistakes.

  • Everyone4

    This is where we’re at in society, we’re complaining about this. I didn’t here this kind of crying for the disabled who can’t play wii or playstation move. I like how this is being brought to light so it can be addressed, but really guys. Pull out your tampons, we should try and hunt down whoever invented the elliptical.

  • Mike

    This is nothing to do with diversity, I’m sorry for however you ended up in your situation, but it is a disability. Unfortunately that means you won’t be able to do everything someone who isn’t can, especially when it comes to physical activity.

  • A. B.

    I guess this also means we should be mad at pro sports teams for having environments where the disabled are excluded.

    And the blind should get mad at Sony for making TVs they can’t watch.

    And the man with no hands should sue Fender for making a guitar he can’t play.

    I empathize with the disappointment and frustration of not being able to take part in something, but where does it stop?

    I do not have the ability to sing – does that mean I should write an angry article asking folks to take arms against record companies for letting me pursue my ambition of a music career?

  • Common Sense

    Firstly have you ever thought that they didn’t detect seated people as a way to stop people playing it while sitting down. I have seen Wii games totally destroyed when people learn how to trick the controller into thinking you are doing a difficult/challenging move when in fact you are seated.

    Secondly motion capture is HARD very hard, super hard, OMG hard, Kinect isnt just some eyeToy crap. To get it right im sure they had to make assumptions such as, the player is standing, so the system knows to look for a human shaped blob with 2 arms and 2 legs.

    While i dont want people to miss out on the fun of kinect i think you need to have some sort of understanding about whats going on in the background. And if to make kinect work they had to restrict it to people how look a certain way (and the picked the vast majority of the population) then so be it.if kinect cant work with super fat people thats tough 2. should they ban games that need 2 handed moves cos some people may be amputees?

  • Anonymous

    Were the TV ads showing people playing games in a seated position? I don’t recall any that did, and if these people had read anything about Kinect they should have had the restraint to wait for games that didn’t require people to be standing/jumping/running.

  • Paul Arrington

    I am not a fan of microsoft, and I can respect your anger, but this rant is misguided. Microsoft released the sensor, not, for the most part, the games. The fact is the sensor can recognize seated players. It even states that facial recognition works as a fallback when body matching is not possible. It recognizes me in a seated well lit condition, and gets better at it every time it goes through Kinect ID. But, even if it didn’t, that part isn’t really necessary to play. The kinect sensor can recognize hand and voice input in a seated position. This means games will come out that take people with wheelchairs into account. It’s not Microsoft’s fault. Considering the amount of times I’ve seen or heard about playing wii sports titles while laying down on a couch, and the general sedentary nature of American culture, I actually see not being able to play a game from a seated position as a positive. Is there room for improvement? Sure. But it has only been out for a couple months. And, while it may not be perfect, the Kinect actually represents a significant step forward in compliance for people with other disabilities. Don’t browbeat that with sensationalism and knee-jerk reactions to a platform that’s the equivalent of an infant.

  • James

    Why are you mad at Microsoft, they didn’t make people unable to walk. Looks like someone is just looking for a scapegoat, so you put the blame on someone. Seriously, they didn’t do anything wrong here.

  • BigWoopMagazine

    Well, try the Move for PS3 out. You still need use of your arms and hands to do it, so it won’t work for all disabilities either, but games like Tumble, Echochrome 2, Archery and Disc Golf in Sports Champions, and Heavy Rain can all be played easily while sitting down. The camera tracks the controller wand rather than the player, so it can be easily adjusted to work in more situations. Unfortunately this still doesn’t solve the problem if your intention was to get away from using a controller, but it still works as a solution for many wheel chair bound individuals.

  • Ben

    While I think it would be great for the games to support everyone, let’s visit reality. Microsoft is supposed to make money. Initially spending a lot of money to support a small group is not profitable in any way and does not sustain growth. And I can only assume as the technology evolves, this money making venture will support a broader diversity of users as it organically expands over time.

  • Cwlippincott

    “White skinned users that can stand and dance.”

    There are white skinned users that can dance?

  • Guest

    Like any product, it is made to target its primary market first. The developer/marketer, by definition, “discriminate”. Then changes are made to products that expand to meet new markets.

  • Mariusjuncu

    i have used my kinect sitting down fine while playing games on my computer and it still works when i use it with my xbox too you just need to be at the right distance and i’ve also seen black people use it too without any problems the people who started those rumors where the game companies who have problems with microsoft and how in the name of god is supposed to recognize a wheel chair when they have just grasped people this just sounds like someone who made a rush purchase without research and then getting mad at the company who apparently is supposed to forsee things they dont have the technology to fix yet

  • Fred

    Ashamed of what? Making a product that is fun for 99% of the people? Do you really expect a first generation evolution of a product to be perfect for every human on the planet? Come on now be reasonable it will get there it will just take a little time.

  • Sandra

    did you try out Kinectimals?
    Maybe Microsoft should send you one copy. It would be very nice to know if it works.
    I heard that it would work very well.

  • Rocktotter46

    Susanna should try Joy Ride, I hear it can be played sitting down.

  • Steve Spohn

    while I can appreciate how this girl feels, this article is more based on fear than anything else. Yes, it would be wonderful if everyone could do everything, but the fact of the matter is there are certain limitations life puts on all of us. If you want to see a more realistic point of view, check out from AbleGamers.

    Kinect has at least one game that can be played from the seated position, and they are reaching out to a number of disability websites to improve how the product works with the disabled. Microsoft is an easy target because of its size and in a perfect world it would be wonderful if the first-generation was able to do everything we want it to do, but that’s just not reality. However, the fact of the matter is this technology is going to offer many disabled people a new way of controlling their computers, games and more. Before jumping to the conclusion that Microsoft completely dropped the ball and did not attempt to make some accommodations, we should look at all the facts.

  • Somebody

    If you actually did a little research you would see that Kinect isn’t intended to discriminate against black skinned people, but the problem was as simple as a small lighting issue. The poorer the quality of light in the room, the harder it is for the Kinect to register people.

  • Hellodali2

    Yes I also got the Kinect for my spouse who has mobility issues because of the fact that you don’t have a controller only to discover you can’t sit, even on a tall stool. It doesn’t see her at all. Even for games where all you do is use your hands to hit the blocks she has to stand so this purchase was fail. :(

  • Trevor Alexander

    I can somewhat feel the frustration for people in wheelchairs here, but like others have said where does it stop?

    I think the whole point around the kinect is that its for people to be standing. How is the person i in the wheelchair supposed to play the kung foo game? I’m not trying to be offensive but this is a serious question. I’m not familiar with the other kinect games but i think its a FAIL that the author chose the picture of the martial art game where the handicapped person wouldnt be able to play the game to its full extent anyways.

    Another point i would say is that this is the first version of this product, its only been out for a few months, obviously theres some things that need to be worked out with the software.

  • Bill_Gates

    Good Luck with that. Seeing as being angry at a company is a plausible case. loser.

  • connectmeplease

    Congratulations on being both misinformed and on hurting your own cause… With more research, you would have learned that the “black people” issue was just another article like yours, jumping the gun… And yes there are some games you can play sitting down… Not to mention the fact that the people you are upset about are the developers of software, not Microsoft… This article is FAIL. I’ll end with a quote from your article, the one you really should be kind of ashamed for being willing to type…

    “Some people might wonder if Kinect was primarily created for white-skinned people who can stand and dance.”

  • Hateisti

    Reality check indeed. I wonder if this person defends blinds’ rights so much, maybe not if she hasn’t got a blind son.

  • Sbonne2

    I think it’s odd that everyone is so upset at this author for expressing her opinion and frustrations about this. Isn’t that what blogging is about, expressing your opinion and describing experiences? And as for insinuating that people with disabilities are a “small group”, I’m not sure I would call 52 million people in the U.S. alone that “small”.

    Also seems to me the biggest issue was that Microsoft touted this as being for individuals who are seated, so the frustration was more from the promise and disappointment than the author randomly tracking down and singling out Microsoft to criticize them for not always keeping people with disabilities in the forefront of each of their products’ features. There are challenges faced by individuals with disabilities that it doesn’t sound like many of these commenters have experience with, nor sensitivity for. Much greater challenges than the ability to sing (which was poorly equated with the ability to walk by one of the commenters), challenges that affect the level of participation in ALL aspects of society, aspects that obviously many of you take for granted.

  • Ammie

    Many of the comments here show how ignorance in understanding differences can lead to comments that display narrow-mindedness of the human experience. Have any of you ever experienced discrimination due to race, gender, ethnicity, or ABILITY? If you had or if you had a child or a family member that may have experienced this, I assure you, you would not think it is acceptable to overlook these issues for even what you consider a small percentage of society. Never mind that there are millions of people with disabilities and as our population ages, we are all more likely to experience some sort of disability after the age of 65. Should we ignore the Baby boomers, I would not think that would be a sound business decision. I would encourage those of you who deem yourself to be educated, especially anyone involved in product design, to read more about the Principles of Universal Design Although the point of this story I feel is a misrepresentation of who can use the product or lack of this information on the product package and a customer service issue that Microsoft should address, the comments have made it more about passing judgment on others opinions and not understanding the facts. If you really think that people with differing abilities cannot participate fully in life I hope that you or someone you love is never affected by this issue because if this were to happen to you, your comments suggest that you would simply give up and say oh well, this is how life is now and I will not seek fulfillment or happiness in the things that I enjoy. Be brave…challenge life and discrimination! When discrimination does not exist people with disabilities can fully participate in life…I encourage you to read more articles on this blog to see how great life can be when you think beyond the narrow-mindedness of your own personal experiences!

  • bennyblanco1378

    i just purchased a kinect and was excited to be able to play it with my brother who has been in a wheelchair since birth. I knew he would not be able to play any game that would require jumping, dancing etc. Now for instance the bowling on Kinect sports I wanted to play with him because we actually bowl in a league together and he does not use the ramp he actually tolls forward and throws the ball. I do not agree with the tone of this article but I do hpe that game developers are able to make some games more accessable to people like my brother. Now I also have a PS3 and I will purchase the Move but in no way would i overly criticize MS and neither will my bro. I still see the Kinect as a pretty amazing advancement and look forward to seeing what can be accomplished in the future with it.

  • The Irish Phenakism

    LOL I mean, seriously. Did people in wheel chairs expect to be able to use the Kinect. Honestly, ask yourself that. Tough luck, but that’s how the dice rolls in life. You can’t get everything 😀

  • The Irish Phenakism

    Hahahahahaha! I like this guy, A. B.

  • N.G.

    The ignorant comments on this post are overwhelming. While this may sound like an attack on Microsoft I believe the bigger picture is inclusion. Thank you for writing this and in support of those with disabilities.

  • Remi Online

    to be serious..i don’t think that a person in a wheelchair is that affected by the new microsoft kinect.Fail!

  • Terri

    I can’t believe how ignorant and uneducated people here are about physically challenged people. I BECAME ONE in 2005, and I can see both sides of the story. We have a Kinect game at home called Kinectimals. I bought it for us that we as a couple could play. I cannot. I have to watch my husband play. NOWHERE on the box does it have a warning sticker saying “not advisable for physically challenged people. And why is that? Because it’s DESCRIMINATORY!

    Those who can walk: Imagine now that for the first of your life you will not be able to. Things that you took for granted you cannot do and that people in a line at Wendy’s Fast food will get nasty to you because your wheelchair accidentally hit their butt?

    Now don’t tell me that I’m whining because I spent close $500 for a gaming machine that all I can do is watch my husband play. THAT’S ignorant and inconsiderate!

  • Terri

    I can’t believe how ignorant and uneducated people here are about physically challenged people. I BECAME ONE in 2005, and I can see both sides of the story. We have a Kinect game at home called Kinectimals. I bought it for us that we as a couple could play. I cannot. I have to watch my husband play. NOWHERE on the box does it have a warning sticker saying “not advisable for physically challenged people. And why is that? Because it’s DESCRIMINATORY!

    Those who can walk: Imagine now that for the first of your life you will not be able to. Things that you took for granted you cannot do and that people in a line at Wendy’s Fast food will get nasty to you because your wheelchair accidentally hit their butt?

    Now don’t tell me that I’m whining because I spent close $500 for a gaming machine that all I can do is watch my husband play. THAT’S ignorant and inconsiderate!

  • daniel

    you can always not buy it.

  • Kimberli

    I too am in a wheelchair. My daughter got it for her Dad and I in the hopes I would be able to get more excersize. I was bummed when I couldnt use it. I was not born this way I had a tumor in my spinal cord. Prior to this I was a very active person. I’m not on a mission to change the minds of the people who have no disibilities. I just know that it can happen to anyone. If you arent disabled you cant understand how difficult it is just being disabled. Obesity is one of the reasons the video game company’s came out with games like WII and Kinect. I to need to fight obesity…. It would be great if one of the companies would make a game for me. I know they would make money.

  • Sam

    Wow! I can’t understand why everyone can’t be happy. It’s a simple fix for people in wheelchairs. Microsoft needs to place a sit mode with an parent control. Then everyone can play or play along with the Kinect games.

  • jf

    I work at a day habilitation facility and we recently purchased a kinect fully anticipating everyone to participate.  HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT :((

  • jf

    You clearly have never interacted with individuals in wheelchairs. Shame on you.  The things you mentioned, such as the blind and individuals with no hands are things that are impossible.  An individual in a wheelchair being able to play kinect is possible.  They just didn’t think about it!

  • Shelby

    The disabled can play Wii, smh.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, but I’m with A.B. on this one. My self, 26 and a para in a chair, I think this article is a little over the top. I really have no use for the Kinect, but you know? Tough. I can’t walk either, let’s put a little perspective on it. How about we get angry that her son can’t walk, not that he can’t use the latest fad.

  • Anonymous

    This isn’t discrimination….I’m in a chair and it’s not that big of a deal. I can’t walk anymore but all you able bodied people walk by me everyday, what with your muscles and working nervous system…I should sue and be upset huh?

    Some poeople just like to be angry me thinks.

  • Anonymous

    Your right, they should also include controls that allow high level quads use there minds to play games since they can’t use regular controllers…….

    You people are killing me…..