As much as Sky might resist them, comparisons between its just-announced Sky Live camera accessory and the much-maligned Xbox Kinect were always going to be drawn. Both are cameras that attach to the top of your TV and use body-tracking technology to open up gesture-controlled gaming and fitness experiences, after all.
The biggest problem for Kinect, though, was that it was a very casual-leaning bit of kit that was being forced down the throats of hardcore gamers – the Xbox One even came bundled with the second-generation version whether you wanted it or not – and many people didn’t.
It’s a different story for Sky Live, which is a genuinely optional accessory for the Sky Glass TV, and one that – while not cheap if bought upfront – can be added to a Sky package for a monthly amount small enough that many subscribers won’t even notice.
And, of course, Sky Glass isn’t a hardcore gaming device that fans feel is being watered down for a casual audience. It’s not a gaming device at all, so Sky Live’s small roster of super-accessible games is a pure bonus – nothing is being taken away.
But what’s most convinced me that Sky Live could be a success where previous, similar devices have failed, is how seamlessly it is integrated into the Sky Glass user experience and how well it performs in action.
Simply plug it into the Sky Glass TV and Sky Live-specific apps and menu options appear. Head to a program page (Sky’s Ashes coverage or Succession, for example) and a new ‘Watch Together’ button is available. Click it and you can quickly and easily set up a watch party with friends and family. Anyone in the group can pause, rewind or resume, making it feel more communal, and Sky’s technology – at least according to our hands-on session – seems to do a great job of keeping everyones’ video feeds synchronised.
You can do standard video calls, too, of course, and while my suspicion is that the desire for sofa-based video chat has waned somewhat in the period since Covid lockdowns, there’s a chance they could make a bit of a comeback with the right technology and availability. Sky’s partnership with Zoom for this is clever, as it means Sky Live users can talk to those running the Zoom app on a phone or tablet and, soon, on an Apple TV 4K or recent Sony TV. At the launch event, Sky Live did a much better job of connecting to calls and framing participants than my Portal TV did in a whole sorry year of use.
The Mvmnt fitness app looks genuinely good, too, with very impressive tracking and a degree of gamification that I can see being addictive rather than off-putting, and a general presentational style that appears to do a pretty good job of treading the very fine line between encouraging and patronising.
As for the games, I won’t be selling my PS5 any time soon, but I will be pumping some time into the Beat Sabre-like Starri rhythm action game, I will be trying to convince my folks to do an online game of Monopoly, and I wish that the Peppa Pig game had been available when my little boy was a couple of years younger.
Whether Sky Live will be a real success will come down to what happens next. Can Sky tempt enough developers on board to create a thriving ecosystem of apps and games? It’s certainly making all the right noises in that regard, but only time will tell. Its appeal will surely broaden if it can be untethered from the Sky Glass TV, too, as AV nerds such as you and I are unlikely to have a Sky Glass TV in our lounge but are far more likely to have a Sky Stream Puck connected to an OLED TV or somesuch.
In other words, I still don’t know whether Sky Live will be a hit. I just know it’s better than I expected – and probably better than you’re thinking.
Here's our Sky Glass review
And you can get Sky Glass without the TV with Sky Stream...
... which you can partner with any of the best TVs