Xbox re-invent gaming with “Project Natal”

Microsoft develop hands-free system for gaming

By Eliot Fish in LA

The future of the Xbox 360 isn’t just looking bright, it’s now an all-engulfing supernova that may change the face of interactive entertainment. That was the overwhelming consensus reached by the hordes of media exiting from the Xbox press event this morning in Los Angeles.

Completely dispensing with a controller of any kind, the newly announced “Project Natal” (a working title only) will allow Xbox 360 users to browse their dashboard using “Minority Report-style” hand gestures, launch a game by saying the word “play” and then take part in all sorts of on-screen action with every turn of their head, the use of speech and all four limbs.

The secret is a small box that will sit beneath the TV, connected to the Xbox 360. Inside this box of magic is an RGB camera, depth sensor, multi-array microphone and custom processor that Steven Spielberg dubbed “invisible technology” for the way it allows users to play using their entire body as the controller. Gamers were shown kicking virtual soccer balls, racing cars using their own imaginary steering wheel, painting with virtual paint by hand gesture and knocking down opponents with karate kicks. This was no EyeToy, as full 3D movement is detected.

Lionhead head-honcho Peter Molyneux then wowed the crowd with footage of a virtual character named Milo who seemed able to chat and interact with the person standing in front of the TV – even recognising facial expressions and responding to emotions in a realistic way. He was even on a first-name basis with the young lady performing the filmed demo.

Even more surprising is the news that Microsoft were sending out “Project Natal” development kits to developers on the day of the event, proving that the technology isn’t just fantasy or smoke and mirrors. If we can get a closer look at the tech and the stunning Milo demo, which is being shown behind closed doors at E3 this week, we’ll bring you more.