Tech Buzz

MICROSOFT PROJECT NATAL :TECH BUZZ

MICROSOFT PROJECT NATAL :TECH BUZZ
KEVIN MORRA

“What we’re witnessing today is like the transformation from black and white to Technicolor. It’s a revolution in entertainment, in what we can do and in how rich and inclusive the experience can be. This is a pivotal moment that will carry with it a wave of change, the ripples of which will reach far beyond video games.” Steven Spielberg

What is “Project Natal” and how long has it been in the works?

Project Natal is a revolutionary new way to play video games — no controller required. It uses a sensor to track your body movements, gestures, even facial expressions. It can even understand your voice.

This is true physical play, no controller, no headset, no wand. Even if you’ve never picked up a controller, you can jump in and instantly have fun. Microsoft has a legacy of using cities as code names for new products, and so the creators that incubated “Project Natal” named it after a coastal city in Brazil where one of the project leaders was from. Additionally, they knew that “natal” meant “to be born” in Latin, which felt appropriate.

Can you explain the new technology behind “Project Natal”?

Compatible with any Xbox 360, 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, even a difference of emotion in your voice.

Additionally, unlike other devices, the Project Natal sensor is not light-dependent, can recognize you just by looking at your face, and doesn’t just react to key words, but understands what you’re saying.

Call a play in your favorite football game, and players will actually respond. Want to log onto Xbox LIVE? Simply step in front of the camera.

Will Microsoft be able to platform this technology beyond the gaming world?

Our focus with “Project Natal” is to transform social gaming and entertainment forever. We have nothing else to announce today.

Is Project Natal geared towards a specific demographic?

The great thing about Project Natal is that anyone can play. If you know how to move your hands, shake your hips or speak, then you and your friends can jump into the fun. The only experience needed is life experience.

Steven Spielberg was the keynote speaker for Project Natal at the E3 convention; in what way is he involved?

Steven Spielberg and Don Mattrick, Senior VP of Xbox, have known each other for a long time. They have frequently talked about finding ways to bring gaming to the masses. They both felt the barrier to making games accessible to everyone was complex controllers and control schemes. With Project Natal, their shared vision of creating games and experiences that everyone can enjoy is being realized. As such, Steven graciously agreed to be part of our launch announcement.

When can we expect to see the product in stores?

We did not announce a specific date when the product will be in stores — sometime in 2010. However, from day one, Project Natal will work with every Xbox 360 ever sold.

What has Microsoft learned about gaming since its first edition Xbox launched in 2001?

This is a pretty complex answer. I’ll sum it up like this: Xbox 360 has more games, more entertainment, and more fun. It’s about having fun and bringing friends together, no matter where they are. We have games for every skill and style. You can play with friends across the street or around the world on Xbox LIVE and extend your favorite games with add-ons like new songs, levels, characters and more. Plus you’ll find thousands of the best HD movies and TV episodes available instantly from Netflix.

How has the current economy influenced emerging technologies and product development in the gaming market?

The current economic situation means more and more people are looking for ways to be entertained and have fun with their friends and family. With Xbox 360, you get more games, more movies and more value for your entertainment buck.

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