As rumored, Microsoft unveiled its newest control scheme today: full-body motion control that doesn’t require a controller of any kind called Project Natal. Forgive my excitement, but on first glance this thing looks amazing. Nintendo should watch out.
Project Natal is a bar that sits above or below your TV, much like the Wii’s sensor bar. But instead of sensing controllers, this thing has a camera, sensors and a microphone inside that lets it get an accurate sense of your space and you in it. This lets you control games just by moving around; kicking, jumping, whatever. But that’s really just the start.
What makes this so damned cool is that it lets you do more than just play games with it. You can also move through menus by swiping your hands back and forth. The camera allows for fun features like facial and voice recognition. When you have it running, your Xbox will recognize your face and sign you in automatically.
You can start to imagine the possibilities already. Everything from Minority Report style menu control to Dance Dance Revolution games that require you to actually dance rather than just hit buttons to videoconferencing in your living room, the thing just feels like the future. And it already makes the Wii seem like a gimpy and outdated piece of tech. There’s no way it can touch what this will do.
What makes this so exciting isn’t what they showed off today, which seemed like glorified tech demos. No, what’s amazing is to think about what creative developers will be able to do with the dev kits that just arrived on their doorsteps. This is a whole new way of controlling not only games but what’s quickly becoming the media and communications hub of your living room. Get excited.
Update: Microsoft explains how it works:
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.