If you're a gamer, you've surely already heard about Microsoft's Project Natal. And if not, you may be a gamer soon enough; the announcement should be interesting even to the staunchest non-gamers out there.
In a press conference at E3 yesterday, Microsoft dazzled media with their announcement of a new hardware package that will not only compete with Wii, but take the Xbox 360 well beyond Wii's current capabilities. The hardware, which is being referred to as "Project Natal", uses a series of cameras, motion and sound sensors to translate your body motion into on-screen play. The system will read three-dimensional motion allowing for full translation of your movements. It will even include facial recognition software allowing for user sign-in by simply standing and having your face "read". Play games by simply moving your body without any controller whatsoever.
Microsoft plans to integrate the new body-motion hardware into the Xbox 360, so they won't have to launch an entirely new system. Pricing and availability have not yet been specified and it's also unclear whether Project Natal hardware will be available as an add-on so that users can purchase the system to add to the Xbox 360 they already own, or if it will require purchase of a next generation 360 console. Microsoft is in the process of shipping development kits out to third party game companies to begin development of compatible games.
Two of the demo games used to display Project Natal's functionality are Ricochet, which enables the user to block projectiles flying at them with their body and Paint Party, which is a painting game in which the user can throw paints onto a canvas. If those sound as boring to you as they do to me, check out the video below, which will give you a better idea of the immersive gaming experience that Natal promises. (It seems the video may not be working correctly, so if you can't see it: here's the link.)
I'll admit, I've never been much of a gamer, but I'd definitely play this. I'm looking forward to seeing it materialize. Of course, there's still a long way to go before Microsoft's vision is a hard reality reaching living rooms around the world.
What do you think? Is this up your alley, or do you prefer games that entail the use of complex controls? What do you want to see from the future of gaming?
CNET and Engadget