Why Australia Has To Wait For Kinect Voice Control

Kinect launched in Australia yesterday and, despite the fact that this delay had been announced previously, there was a certain twinge of disappointment in the fact that Kinect didn't arrive with the same voice control functionality that consumers in the US and the UK received. We wanted to find out why - so we got in contact with Microsoft and asked.

"We want to give Aussies the premium experience for Kinect," claims Adam Pollington, Xbox Category Manager. "We could have launched with something substandard, but we wanted to deliver the best possible service.

"Some methods of communication are straight forward, like hand gestures are the same, but voices are obviously different with accents and slang, not just across different countries, but within those countries. To implement more advanced controls we have to master all of these accents."

Apparently Microsoft is currently working through Beta testing, recording and uploading hundreds of Australian accents across the country to ensure that the best possible spectrum is implemented into Kinect's voice control system. But this begs the question: why wasn't all of this done before hand? Why do it now, during the Kinect's actual launch in Australia?

"It's more about the time it takes to work it all in," explains Adam. "It's just a massive task to implement it all and, as we said before, we want to give Aussies the best premium service."

So when can we expect to see the service in Australia?

"We've been told early next year, so I would guess that means roughly a late February/early March Launch."



    Real nice of them to not tell us about this until we're yelling at our Xboxes on launch day.

    Also, accents in the north of England are fine for Kinect but the Australian accent is just so far off the rails...?



      What are you on about?
      This was announced well before the release.

      For those who purchased one and did not know, it is your own fault. In this day and age who on earth buys something electronic without a quick google, at the least?

        I never heard anything either.

          I was well aware that there was no voice functionality..

          Apparently no-one told Harvey Norman though.. they have been flogging it and its voice control functions all over the radio this weekend..

        Microsoft Australia's own Kinect webpage (AU page, not US) was still promoting the voice features as late as last Friday - the day after launch. The only clue that full voice wasn't supported was a near-invisible disclaimer right at the bottom; not even an asterisk on the feature text. I call that misleading.

        If you look now, the disclaimer is still there but they finally removed any other mention of voice features.

        Yes it was mentioned somewhere else, but I'm not in the habit of googling every last feature of each product I buy on the off chance some raving bureaucrat decided to quietly yank it before launch.

      If you disconnect from live then change either
      1.Your Region to America of Britan
      2.Change the Date forward a year
      The voice recognition will work in Oz

    Sounds like a crock to me - do you need to account for slang terms when the phrases the system will recognise are all mandated?

      Ha yeah I'd love to see how well it works with a Northie on the UK version of the software.

        I refuse to believe that an American/Israeli product can work with USA accents and English accents but not Australian ones. If an australian can afford a Kinect, their accent is probably close enough to English anyway. On the other hand, it records how one speaks upon set-up...

        That said, Microsoft has to be telling the truth on this one: they are a reputable, honest company who only ever releases top-quality products...?...! =D

    Oh, and not to mention they still have this on the Australian xbox site:

    "Kinect uses advanced entertainment technology to respond to the sound of your voice. Just say “Xbox” to reveal a series of voice commands. So you’ll be able to control HD movies with the sound of your voice—no remote required."


    There is no "*" telling you to look for the small grey print at the bottom which says "Kinect voice control function not available at launch in Australia and New Zealand. Availability date to be confirmed"

    Its borderline misleading conduct in my opinion.

      They're telling people that it has functionality that it, in fact, does not have. Nothing borderline about that: it's straight-up misleading. The fact that it's coming at some vague time "early next year" does not make it okay to tell people they can use the feature NOW. Until they add that asterisk you suggested or release the feature, advertising it is very, very poor form.

      More than borderline, IMHO.

      They've taken that part down now. There's still the tiny disclaimer, and the phrase "Imagine controlling movies and music with the wave of a hand or the sound of your voice", but the rest is gone.

    "The time it takes to work it all in"? Surely it doesn't take any longer than it would have to work in the variety of US and UK accents. Hell, I'd argue there's a far greater variety of accents in both of those countries than there is in this one.

    And it's not like it would have been the same people doing it - why couldn't they have had people working on the Australian accents simultaneously with the UK and US ones? Unless they've only got a single bloke with a microphone travelling the world recording all of these accents one at a time. In which case they need to spend less money on marketing and more on just making the thing work properly.

    Strueth cobbers!
    Stop carrin' on like drongo's!
    I reckon these blokes are being ridgy-didge with us.
    So chuck happy one on ya mug and get on with it!

    Now if you'll excuse me i need to sink some piss, my mouth is as dry as a dead dingo's donger!

      Sed loik a troo digga

    What a load of crap.

    Probably had to reprogram Kinect to respond to being called Bruce... because, you know, it might get confusing otherwise.

      I think it would be awesome if you could change the Kinect so it responded to names other then Kinect. It would also be great if the Kinect could talk back to you and you could choose from a wide range of voices including celebrity voices.

      Imagine saying "Paris start the movie" and getting the reply "movie, like, totally starting".
      Even better:
      "HAL start the movie"
      "I'm affraid I can't do that Dave. I've red ringed again"

    The obvious conclusion is that not only is our accent an obstacle from a technical standpoint, but our national vernacular is now of concern.

    I doubt I'm the only Australian who would find it convenient to be able to shut down my 360 with the particular code phrase, "F*ck off, ya bastard!".

      Id be concerned if that phrase was used as I think my 360 would shut off numerous times in some of teh harder games and more in online play.

        On second thoughts, a phrase like that might actually provoke a red ring.

    They could have at least made it recognise swear words, which is what everyone will be using when they realise their Kinect voice control doesn't work.

    What is it with Microsoft and releasing hardware before it's completed? If they hadn't rushed the original 360 out the door maybe they wouldn't have had such a high failure rate.

    'Give Aussies a premuim service' has two meanings:

    1. "Your market is so insignificant, who cares amirite?"

    2. "You talk funny."

    That's funny. I set it to US and it picked up my 'unique' accent without problems.

    Own up to your stuff up MS. Just patch the damn region for us before I purchase a US proxy and get it anyway.

    I dont have an accent. YOU have an accent!

      when i read this, I see you standing on a stage with the Aussie flag waving slowly behind you with the anthem playing in the background...

      Good stuff!

        I see the same thing but the audience is empty. :-D

        Needs more:

        You know it makes sense... I'm Sam Kickovitch.

    And yet my Australian friends, when logging into thier US accounts were able to use voice control just fine. Very poor form to region lock the service for ne real reason, they could open it up and just say it may not be 100% accurate until a future update.

    "We want to give Aussies the premium experience for Kinect,”

    So they removed functionality.

    Gee, real hard for me to put on an American accent!

    "We could have launched with something substandard, but we wanted to deliver the best possible service."

    Then why launch it now? Kinect offers not the 100% functions of the device elsewhere in the world. Thus by definition is substandard.

    Man up Microsoft and admit you've messed this one up, not so much the product but your backhanded PR babble.

    Get Bent.

    Clearly because they wanted Europe/US to have it all upon release because they are the larger markets where they're gonna see really good sales upon release with large revenue.

    Not complaining cause I ain't getting Kinect - but its pretty easy to understand, so meh!

    I came to this country from Bangladesh when I was 9 years old with the knowledge that I can speak english. I used to get subject awards back at home and knew some of my mums colleagues from England and had no problems communicating with them, or the british nuns that ran my school.

    I could not understand Aussies at all. It took me 1-3 months to adjust to your accent and way of speaking. You guys don't understand the difference between "other english" and "aussie english" cause you hear it everyday. But believe me when I say that a lot of other immigrants are reading about Kinects problem understand you lot and nodding :P

      Not the first time I have heard that from someone where English is a second language. I don’t think it’s easier to understand US or UK accents though. I think it’s just a case of getting used to it.

      I think the reason most people who have English (as a second language) find the US accent easier simply because you are more accustomed to hearing English with a US accent due to the saturation of the US (and to a lesser decree UK) accents in all forms of Media.

      On a side note…
      I had some development done by an Indian company where all the staff spoke English but when I presented the functional requirements to them, the lot of them said they were having an issue understanding me. (The irony of a group of HEAVILY accented Indians telling me I speak funny was not lost on me)

        The real challenge is the Scottish accent. I'm misunderstood wherever I go.

          To quote Robyn Williams...
          "and if you want a linguistic adventure, go drinking with a scotsman. Cos you can't F...en understand em before"

          Jebus Mark,

          How thick is your accent?
          I grew up with a lot of Celts, so the accents never been an issue for me...

          Aberdeen I could understand people having an issue with... but the Glasgow accent's fairly tame, isn't it?

            That's the thing, my accent is so watered down now, but anywhere where there is noise, like a pub, and I just get those blank stares and polite nods...

          I understand completely. I've even had to change my name because when I say 'Jamie' everyone calls me Jimmy. Now I tell people my name is James. It saves so much time.

        I'll accept that american accents are easier to adopt because of their saturation but the aussie accent does have a few problems. Its the way you guys slur the pronounciation of certain words together. The words we all know when used in a sentence by you guys are just formed and come off VERY differently to the other accents. With the other accents, at least you can understand it, but believe me when I saw the Australian language can be a bit of a struggle.

        I thought this was just an asian/indian speaker thing but some americans I met here also mentioned some surprising comprehension problems within the first 2 weeks of being here.

        Not all of you guys, but a lot of you just don't enunciate the words well.

      *UnderstandING you lot... oh man, I totally pwnt myself.


    Struth cobber, are they fair dinkum? Mate, I'm spittin chips.

    Well, the Aussie accent can be pretty hard to understand and you have to consider not just the flatter accents of those in the major cities (which I am sure would work fine) but regional and YOBBO/BOGAN accents; which frankly are pretty much as close to "hee-har hillbilly" as Australia can get. I mean, M$ has to include people that have worse pronunciation then Kath and Kim.

    I suppose most of us immediately think, "Our accent isn't that bad." WELL, yeah it is!!! We often speak through our noses FFS. I am guessing Kiwi's are in the same boat, if not, WTF?

    It is pretty bad form M$ couldn't have started adding those algorithms months ago. It's effectively a launch of a product that's missing the most interesting feature. And waiting till March 2011??... oh wait I forgot we are still waiting for similar Content they support for Americans anyway.

      Ah, but how many bogans are going to buy a kinect anyway? I'd say it'd be a 90:10 City to bogan ratio anyway, considering the barrier to entry is already having a 360

        Sorry, this thread is just GOLD (Sticks thumb up and slaps it down on other hand)

        There are just too many funny comments here. City:Bogan Ratio. I want to go back to uni just to do Boganomics!!!!

        I love it!

        There are a lot of bogans in cities too who also own 360s. Not to mention, bogans, or at least people with bogan accents even I find difficult to understand (and I've lived in Australia my entire life), work in the mines and all of those dangerous and therefore very well paid jobs and usually buy 360s for their kids or whatever. Most of the Australians on XBL you can't understand whatsoever.

      Not to mention the way you weirdo's on the eastern seabord prounce the word dance.

      How many a's are you guys putting in there..?

    Just one more reason not to bother with this gimmick.
    Its no wonder we have a small market when so many Aussies would rather save their cash than be boned by jacked up prices, half arsed and overly delayed product launches.

    Now here's a messy thought. If the problem is the Aussie accent what's going to happen to UK or US immigrants in AU? Or like Shoitaan above - Bangla, Indian, Chinese etc etc.

    Now I know some would like to point out the range of ethnicity within Australia however the city of New York has a greater variance in ethnicity than we have here so this whole argument from M$ really does become moot.

    "It’s more about the time it takes to work it all in"

    That's it right there. Basically MS didn't want to spend any more money on the AU version. I'm sure they could have invested in more staff and computer time to get all the localisation done at the same time, but the fact is they value some markets less then others, Australia is one of those markets.

    "we want to give Aussies the best premium service."

    Or rather, they know they don't have to give a flying fish about the Australian market- we won't be ditching the 360 any time soon- so they wanted to spend all their money on markets that they can improve in, like the Japanese market. So the Japanese get the full voice recognition system despite Australia having almost the same sized userbase.

    Essentially, they don't care about the userbase they have- they already have our money- so are eyeing off what they could have. Makes me feel like a cow standing in a barn being milked while the farmer is out trying to find more cattle...

    The voice support is tied to Xbox live. If you switch to a US account you can use voice control with your kinect, right now.

    I take it the reason for it only working in the US is MS will have to *remove* voice commands from the AU voice control. Things like netflix and the like.

    My one comment as a user of Kinect was that i didn't even notice it was missing last night. I played for hours and didn't really care it was gone.

    I hate the whole Aussies are not that important mentality that we always hear and not having a full featured release is crappy but it did not make the system feel half done.

    Can I ask, has anyone here got Kinect and are feeling like a particular voice command is missing (please share it with us) or are we using this as an oportunity to vent about the way Aussies 'usually' get treated. It is not that i disagree with the above comments, just wondering what we are really complaining about?

      I've got it.

      I think the command to turn it off is one that's noticbly missing.

      To turn it off I had to reactivate the controller, then shut down the console.

        Ah OK,

        I heard that they disabled the ability to turn it ON but didn't think about turning it off. OK, thanks.

        Any others? I am not sure what they were?

        There is no command to turn it off because someone can just come into the room and shout it. There is no command to turn it on because they figure you can't have one without the other.

          Other way around. You could turn it off (and if your mate does it for you, thump him), but in order to turn it on again, the XBox + Kinect would both have to stay mostly powered up so that it could listen for the "on" command (standby isn't enough, unlike with controllers).

          And since it's impractical to have an "on" command, they left out the "off" command too.

      Well, I've come across it twice-

      First time in Kinectimals, you can name your animal but can't call for it, so it'll just keep running around like a goon instead of coming to you. I haven't played far enough in to see if it compromises other parts of the gameplay yet.

      Second time in Dance Evolution, the game can detect you singing along/clapping as part of the dance, and gives you bonus points as such (and there's an achievement for it too). Fortunately they had the foresight to include an option to turn it off in the options menu, so you don't get completely screwed over. But still, it detracts from the gameplay.

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