One of the most interesting announcements of the day is Microsoft's Project Natal. Last month's rumors were true, the software giant is working on an advanced motion sensing technology for the Xbox 360 that may best Nintendo's Wii console.
Project Natal features a camera that will track your body's movements in extreme detail, players can move around freely without having to use a controller and will be able to use gear like a skateboard or a real tennis racket. The Xbox 360 motion sensing camera supports multiple players, there's a microphone for voice recognition and the camera will use face recognition to automatically sign in players to Xbox Live. Availability and pricing is unknown.
Unveiled for the first time to the public was “Project Natal,” pronounced “nuh-tall” and a code name for a revolutionary new way to play, no controller required. See a ball? Kick it, hit it, trap it or catch it. If you know how to move your hands, shake your hips or speak, you and your friends can jump into the fun. The only experience needed is life experience.
Compatible with any Xbox 360 system, the “Project Natal” sensor is the world’s first to combine an RGB camera, depth sensor, multi-array microphone and custom processor running proprietary software all in one device. Unlike 2-D cameras and controllers, “Project Natal” tracks your full body movement in 3-D, while responding to commands, directions and even a shift of emotion in your voice.
In addition, unlike other devices, the “Project Natal” sensor is not light-dependent. It can recognize you just by looking at your face, and it doesn’t just react to key words but understands what you’re saying. Call a play in a football game, and players will actually respond. Want to log onto Xbox LIVE? Simply step in front of the sensor.
“The next step in interactive entertainment is to make the controller disappear,” said Steven Spielberg, visionary director and producer. “With ‘Project Natal,’ we’ll see games that bring everyone together through technology that actually recognizes us.”
The demo Microsoft showed off at E3 included a skateboarding game (replete with a young man "air" ollie-ing), and a family playing a racing game (the dad was changing a tire, the daughter driving). The device appears to be codenamed "Natal." The add-on will be able to auto sign-in players to Xbox Live based on facial recognition, and features extremely detailed body tracking -- like being able to follow movements of separate limbs.