Have controllers been holding you back from your true gaming potential? Yes I mean you, the one who always gets slaughtered in the matches/races/tactical fights you enter with more experienced gamers who have clocked-in far more hours at the controls. You will be happy to know that Microsoft’s Project Natal for the Xbox 360 sets aside the irksome plastic controller from gaming. You become the controller. You use your whole body to interact with the game. If you can kick, jump, swing, or simply move your hands then you can play with Natal. It greatly reduces the gaming learning curve so almost anyone can join in the fun. The only limit being your own personal experience [that's the theory].
Natal’s slim casing holds a special processor, an RGB camera that can recognize facial expressions, a depth sensor that constructs a digital 3d model of the player’s body as it moves, and a multi-array microphone that can detect individual voices (ignoring ambient noise). The system uses an algorithm that teaches itself to recognize movements in real time rather than just adhering to definite set of pre-programmed actions. Microsoft’s team gathered a slew of data, recording humans in their natural environment and actors in motion capture studios. Development took into account the differences in age, gender, and size of the players, even considering the type of clothing that may worn. Curious about more of the technical aspects of Natal? Read Binary Body Double: Microsoft Reveals the Science Behind Project Natal for Xbox 360 in Scientific American.
Microsoft expects Natal to be ready for sale this upcoming holiday season (2010) and the best part is that you don’t have to purchase a new Xbox system. It’s compatible with all Xbox 360s past, present, and future. What the cost will be however is a different story. I’m hoping for the $0 – $100 range.
Other highlights from the product vision include :
- support for up to four players; Natal detects multiple people in the same room
- voice recognition; issue verbal commands
- facial recognition; further customize your avatar etc.
- visual chat with friends on Xbox Live
Personally, I think it will be a while before the controller becomes extinct, if ever. However, I look forward to trying Natal. The downside is though, this time when you play with Natal and lose, it’s all on you. Check out the clip below and visit the Xboxprojectnatal YouTube Channel to see demos and reactions. Microsoft also wants to hear your ideas for Natal.