Project Natal: hands-free controller for Xbox 360

June 2, 2009

(ChattahBox) — Microsoft has unveiled its new revolutionary handsfree motion controller for the Xbox 360 console, at E3 in Los Angeles.  The motion-sensing system code named “Project Natal” is compatible with the current Xbox 360 machine and is a horizontal bar placed near the console. It is capable of recognizing a player’s face and automatically logging them into their Xbox profile. In addition, the console’s menus can be navigated by hand gestures or to kick a virtual football. The system uses a camera and sensors to work out the distance of a player from the monitor and then builds up a three-dimensional map of their movements. A big step from rival Nintendo Wii, which relies on a wand to detect motion and still requires one to grasp a controller. Natal also responds to voice commands. The system also allows virtual interaction between players and other on-screen characters. If a character in a game throws something to your digital self, you can simply reach out in the real world and ‘catch’ the virtual object.

Film director Steven Spielberg, was on hand to launch Natal and has begun to create games himself. His first effort, a puzzle title called Boom Blox, won a BAFTA Award earlier this year.

He said: “The next step in interactive entertainment is to make the controller disappear. With this device, we’ll see games that bring everyone together through technology that actually recognises us.”

He added: “Despite the size of the industry, 60 per cent of households do not own a videogame console. The only way to bring interactive entertainment to everybody is to make the technology invisible.”

At the conference Microsoft also unveiled 10 new games for the Xbox 360, including Beatles Rock Band, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Tony Hawk Ride and Final Fantasy XIII. The company also revealed plans to integrate music-streaming service last.fm, social network Facebook and microblogging site Twitter into its Xbox Live online community.  The Last.fm integration tool allows users to stream music and create customer radio stations which can then be share dwith Xbox Live friends.  The Facebook integration will allow users to add and remove friends, view and update their statuses, and browse news feeds, photos and messages.  Twitter on the Xbox 360 will enable users to post updates and watch the live twitterstream from the people you follow.

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