Microsoft rolled out a demo of Project Natal at this year's D8 conference in California. The device, which sits atop an Xbox 360, allows for game control via the user's own movements: Throw a punch, and the move is mirrored by your onscreen avatar. Microsoft plans on unveiling compatible games for Natal at the upcoming E3 trade show in June, along with a brand-new name for the device that I won't keep misreading as "Navel."

Natal, ready to mock your lack of coordination skills. Image courtesy of Engadget.

Will Natal be a success? It's a little too soon to tell. Nintendo's Wii managed to capture the hearts of casual gamers with its innovative controllers, which respond to users' arm motions. But hardware is only as exciting as the software that comes with it, and it remains to be seen what sorts of games Microsoft and its partners have up their collective sleeve. In any case, Microsoft plans to launch Natal in time for the holiday shopping season, although it's declined so far to name a price point; competition will come not only from the Wii, but also from the Move, a competing hands-free controller from Sony due on store shelves sometime in the latter half of 2010.

What's interesting about Natal, to me at least, is the possibility that its no-hands interface could eventually be integrated outside the game context. Sure, everyone and their mother seem obsessed with touch screens at the moment, whether on the Apple iPad or the new smartphones that enter the market at roughly a rate of two per day. At some point, though, the inevitable next stage in user interfaces needs to be considered.

Along those lines, I bet--and this is purest, airiest conjecture--that the technology behind Natal could eventually find its way into more productivity-centric uses (think of the motion-sensitive interface from the movie "Minority Report," as an example). Such a reality would be years away, of course, but a hands-free controller could have at least one tangible benefit: You wouldn't have to worry anymore about dirtying a screen or keyboard with less-than-clean fingertips.

Source : Microsoft watch

Leave a Reply.