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A Sneak Peek at XBOX's Project Natal

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Yesterday, I was invited to a private Project Natal sneak peek. The event was held at the beautiful EZ Studios in New York City. I met with a member of the Project Natal product team. She gave us a brief explanation of the Natal vision and gave us only a few technical details:

  • RBG camera
  • depth camera
  • Current games will not be compatible with Natal
  • "Project Natal" is a code name and will not be the final name of the product
  • [Work in progress] Use voice commands to control services i.e. music, videos, movies
  • [Work in progress] Facial recognition
  • [Work in progress] Use gesturing to navigate the XBOX menu structure
  • [Work in progress] Distinguishing between the primary player and a spectator
  • [Work in progress] Suppressing background noise

Once we were briefed -- we were given the opportunity to play a dodge ball (like) game. It was a great experience. There I was (without a controller) standing, kicking, swatting, jumping and working up a sweat. The responsiveness of the Natal system was incredible and very accurate. If I physically moved forward, back, swung faster or slower my dodge ball avatar responded in kind.

"Our advances in computer vision and audio-signal processing," Malvar notes, "have enabled the development of Project Natal, a new level of experience for Xbox, in which user gestures and voice take the place of the standard game controller.

-- Rico Malvar, managing director of Microsoft Research Redmond

Robert Bach, President of Entertainment & Devices Division, is very committed to the success of Project Natal. The Entertainment & Devices Division is leveraging social media in an effort to keep the XBOX community and media well-informed. If you want to be kept in the loop about Natal -- then follow the product news here:

    I have met a number of employees from the Microsoft Entertainment & Devices Division. They are all passionate about the products they support but the Project Natal product team boarders on evangelical. It's not the scary evangelical -- it's more in line with a profound passion. They are very proud of the work they have accomplished and can't wait to share their vision with the XBOX community this holiday season. Although there has been no public announcement on pricing Natal will most certainly be on my holiday wish list.

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