Microsoft uncloaks invisible XBox controller
'Project Natal' flails into existence
Microsoft has revealed a motion-sensing gadget for the Xbox 360 that uses the player's full body to control video games.
Dubbed "Project Natal," the new accessory is a horizontal bar placed near the console that allows players to control their games and Xbox media without touching hardware.
Rather than rely on a wand to detect motion like the ubiquitous Nintendo Wii, the device uses a 3-D depth camera and microphones to recognize players' voices and movements for controlling what's on screen. (Think a much more sophisticated Sony Eye Toy).
Don Mattrick, head of Microsoft's game business, took the stage this morning to unveil the device at the company's E3 press conference in Los Angeles. The device was pitched as a way to lure non-traditional video game customers that may be too intimidated to wield the Xbox 360's usual button-and-joystick-laden controller.
"Before, there was a barrier separating video game players from everyone else," Mattrick said.
'Natal' demos were rolled onto stage beginning with (somewhat flakey) limb-by-limb controls of a Xbox 360 avatar. As 'Natal' project leader Kudo Tsunoda moved his arms and feet around in front of the motion-sensing device, his on-screen avatar moved in kind (fairly well).
Next was a 3-D Breakout tech demo called Ricochet. Demo gal "Abby" flailed about maniacally in front of a television to make her avatar rebound balls back toward a set of bricks.
Things got a bit more interesting for the demo, Paint Party, where Mattrick used body motions to slop virtual paint onto an on-screen canvas. The paint palette was changed by simply calling out a new color.
Microsoft also noted that Natal can recognize a player's face and automatically log them into their Xbox profile. In addition, the console's menus can be navigated by hand gestures a la The Minority Report.
Serially inventive game maker Peter Molyneux showed off a fascinating 'Natal' tech demo involving a (real life) woman interacting with a virtual 12-year-old boy. The e-kid was (apparently) able to hold a realistic conversation with the woman using the device, which included swapping sketches and the boy sheepishly admitting he hadn't completed his homework. This was all a video, of course, so unless Molyneux invented true AI, we suspect what was shown was in fact heavily scripted.
Microsoft said its shipping game design tools for Project Natal "today," so don't expect it until late 2010.
Other highlights of the Microsoft E3 show include Xbox Live adding Facebook and Twitter connectivity as well as streaming music from Last.fm. Redmond also announced UK residents will be able to access movies and TV shows through a partnership with Sky TV.
For the US, Live members can now watch streaming TV and movies in full 1080p high definition. ®
oh come on.......
to all the Microsoft haters/sony fan boys - its not an Eye Toy.
After seeing part of the sony press conference today I was bored out of my head, nothing new or interesting yet at all. Least MS is actually pushing something and being innovative, whereas sony are still trying to flog a dying horse, (as most big titles are out on both consoles - so why buy a PS3?)
After market is the key, y'all
Let's face it (ha, ha), the real use of something like this is _not_ XBox, but the after market. Like the time I rewired a NES controller to work on my serial port (back in 86 - to work with ZORK!), this bit of kit will allow DIYers to redefine human / computer interfaces as we see fit.
If the price point is down low enough (~100USD or less), this could allow full gesture control for OS navigation, (true) browser gestures, etc. at affordable prices for Joe FOSS. Add in the voice capabilities and you could end up with a combined experience that would be quite useful, if amazingly Star Trek geeky. One image: holding out both hands as if you are holding a box by its sides, and then rotating the invisible box to the left - and your KDE desktop's "cube" rotates with you. 'Nuff said.
I fully intend to get one of these, and have it wired up ala Minority Report. What else is a 32" LCD for, anyway? :)
Microsofts Epic E3 fail.
A "PS3 Eye" that's likely still years away, and doubtful will even make it onto this generation of Xbox. (and Sony are already well advanced in their stuff( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPENA1Bpm68"
A load of multiplatform titles we already knew about (Rockband Beatles and COD4 MW2)
A couple of Xbox Exclusives we already knew about, with not much else revealed (Crackdown2 is re portably 18 months away).
A Metal Gear spinoff title that doesn't feature Snake, and is not a real Metal Gear game, just an action game with Raiden that just an hour after the Microsoft press conference an interview with Kojima quoted him essentially disowning the game.
Last.fm, Facebook and Twitter coming to Xbox (something PS3 owners have been able to do from day one. (in addition to virtually any other online social networking service).
Expensive Sky Player service, which streams a couple of premium sky channels at £30 a month (+XBL fees), and requires a decent broadband connection.
I think deep down, even the most hardened Xbox fanboys must realise this years E3 from Microsoft was almost entirely already known stuff or pie-in-the-sky vapourware.