Saturday, November 21, 2009

Project Natal Will Revolutionize Interactive Design

Designers are going to have a field day developing new uses for a new XBox system that doesn't require any controller other than your own body, voice, and facial expressions. “Project Natal,” pronounced “nuh-tall”, is the code name for a revolutionary new way to play video games - no controller required. Kick a ball, hit it, trap it or catch it. By simply moving your hands, shaking your hips or speaking, you (and even groups of people) can interact directly with their TV and video games. This is absolutely science fiction becoming reality - Minority Report and Star Trek are here.

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. To log onto Xbox LIVE simply step in front of the sensor.

“The next step in interactive entertainment is to make the controller disappear,” said Steven Spielberg, visionary director and producer, who is helping promote the new system (on right in picture on left).

Developers will be given a detailed look at the system at Microsoft's Gamefest conference targeted at video game industry professionals and media interested in learning more about developing games on Microsoft-owned platforms such as Xbox 360. Attendees will be taught how to approach development for the new control solution. They will be given in-depth advice on "gesture recognition, avatar retargeting, speech recognition, advanced raw stream processing, handling different player environments, and many other features of the revolutionary new system. There will also be a Project Natal design track that will focus on " creating new ways to work, building showcase experiences, divining user intent, and designing gestures for UI versus game interactions."

Microsoft unveiled Project Natal at E3 in June this year. The system includes a 3D camera as well as a microphone that can facilitate voice recognition. Microsoft plans to use the camera as a way to gain traction with audiences intimidated by traditional controllers. Microsoft has not announced an official release date.

Click on the heading above to see some videos showing some of the applications for the new system.

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