Scary, But In a Good Way-Project Natal
Okay, I’m blown away. When I first heard about Project Natal from Microsoft, I thought, “C’mon, how good can this be?” Then I kept getting more info about it, and I saw the concept video (below). Then I though, “C’mon, how real can that be?” Then I started getting reports from press members out of E3 where it was announced about how real this really was. Then my thoughts turned to, “When can I get it? Can I beta test?”
If you haven’t heard, Project Natal is a development project in Microsoft’s gaming division (with research support, I’m sure, from Microsoft Research) that looks like it should be something coming out of academia and 10 years or more from the marketplace. It’s the interface that machines have always needed, or rather, that we have always needed to interact with them, but have dismissed as impossible, or too far out there, or too sci-fi, or just too scary. I’m talking about the next big leap in user experience (the term used to describe the experience that humans have interacting with machines). Not just with gaming, either.
Think about Tom Cruise’s interaction with the machines in the movie Minority Report…then take it further. It’s here, and it’s real. We just can’t quite get it yet.
Project Natal was introduced to the world at E3 which is just finishing up. It is not ready for market yet, and there is no release date announced, but it is unlikely to be in 2009. 2010 is a possibility, though…and I’m telling you, the waiting is going to be hard. After the reports from the press who got to actually use the system, it seems to be working quite well already.
What is it?: Project Natal a gaming and social interface that doesn’t have a physical controller. You become the controller. Using a system of a couple of cameras+microphone array and some software/hardware magic, it can recognize individuals and even small movements from fists, arms, legs, faces, etc. It recognizes depth, and voice input, and gestures that allow you to interact with the system with no wires, no controllers, no buttons…just you. You can control media, social interactions with other gamers and friends, gaming input itself, and the possibilities go on and on. I know…I’m a skeptic by nature, and this sounds too good to be true…but I’m hoping, and first reports are very, very promising.
Here are some of the reports:
“Believe the Hype”—Stuff.tv
“The hands-on demos worked great”—Wired Magazine
Here is the official video to demonstrate the vision of the product that apparently really works today.
Here is another video from a Microsoft Game Studios subsidiary, Lionhead Studios, who have created a concept that will really get your mind racing.
This is not just for gaming, folks, but it’s probably appropriate that that is where it’s starting. Think. Within 18 months, I believe we’ll be tasting the future of machine interaction. Scary? A little. Amazing? Unquestionably. “Open the pod bay doors, HAL”, Natal is coming.