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Microsoft debuts Xbox 360 motion-sensing device

Microsoft reveals Project Natal for Xbox 360

Xbox logo

Microsoft has announced Project Natal – a motion-sensing controller designed to be used with the company’s Xbox 360 games console, at this week’s E3 conference being held in the US.

Unveiled at the E3 conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft revealed the first details of the much-rumoured controller. Motion-sensing game controllers have proved a hit with more casual games players, with Nintendo using motion-sensing devices for its Wii games console, including Wii Fit.

Sony’s Playstation 3 uses motion-sensing features in it’s Sixaxis controller, while Apple’s iPhone also uses this technology for some of it’s games and applications.

Initially named Project Natal, Microsoft’s controller takes the form of a camera that is placed in front of the player, and tracks their motion to recreate the action onscreen. Microsoft says that the player doesn’t hold a controller, instead using their entire body – such as arm and head movements – to interact with the game environment.

Project Natal

Microsoft enlisted the support of director Steven Spielberg to promote the Project Natal contoller, who spoke at the event of his wish to make entertainment more interactive and accessible to all. Spielberg stated ‘What Microsoft is doing is not about reinventing the wheel, it’s about no wheel at all’.

The device was showcased at E3 by the President of Lionhead Studios’ Peter Molyneux, creator of the popular Fable game series. The company produced a demo for the device in which users can interact with a character onscreen, communicating verbally and manipulating scenery in the virtual world using their movements. A demo called Paint Party was also shown, where the user created a painting on a blank canvas using hand movements and voice commands.

The promotional video Microsoft showed of the device suggests that it can be used for other applications aside from games, such as live video conferencing. Microsoft confirmed that the motion sensor will be compatible with all models of the Xbox 360, and is likely to be available in 2010.

‘Interactive media companies such as Microsoft, Nintendo and Apple are searching for ways to encourage more people to play games and interact with their devices,’ says Which? technology editor Matthew Bath. ‘Gesture-based interfaces and motion-detection are becoming more common, as more casual games players find these types of controls less off-putting than complex games console controllers. Expect lots more developments on this front as companies continue to try to woo more casual consumers into the world of digital interactive entertainment.’

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