Feeds

Microsoft uncloaks invisible XBox controller

'Project Natal' flails into existence

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration

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. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Nice computers don’t need to go to the toilet, says Barclays
Bad computers might ask if you are Sarah Connor
4K video on terrestrial TV? Not if the WRC shares frequencies to mobiles
Have your say with Ofcom now, before Freeview becomes Feeview
PEAK LANDFILL: Why tablet gloom is good news for Windows users
Sinofsky's hybrid strategy looks dafter than ever
YES, iPhones ARE getting slower with each new release of iOS
Old hardware doesn't get any faster with new software
You didn't get the MeMO? Asus Pad 7 Android tab is ... not bad
Really, er, stands out among cheapie 7-inchers
Apple winks at parents: C'mon, get your kid a tweaked Macbook Pro
Cheapest models given new processors, more RAM
VMware builds product executables on 50 Mac Minis
And goes to the Genius Bar for support
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Microsoft stands on shore as tablet-laden boat sails away
Brit buyers still not falling for Windows' charms
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?