Microsoft announces “We just invented the FUTURE: Suck it!”

Project Natal at E3 is Incredible!

So, this was a couple of days ago now, but I’ve been so busy over at E3 and blogging at our sister publication All That Gaming Stuff, that I haven’t had time to drop a note about it here. Project Natal¬†at E3 is, in a word, the single most advanced motion control system ever devised or introduced for a home game console (OK, so that’s not a word, it’s more of a…phrase-like construct…thingy). And yes, that includes Sony’s newly announced Wiimote Duo (and yes, you should check out the Demo, it’s actually very cool as an evolution of the Wiimote concept).

So what does this sucker do? Well for starters it detects your entire body and the motion of 48 of your joints. It also detects your face–and will automatically log you into your profile when it sees you. It can detect your voice–and distinguish it from those of your friends, your family and even the game or movie characters you’re watching or playing. It can rapidly scan real world objects and convert them to real-time objects in a game as you can see in both the above video and in Lionhead’s demonstration of its advanced AI character Milo. But the most impressive thing shown with regards to Natal so far is that it enables the game software to do something that no game software has ever done before–it can recognize your emotional states by reading your facial and vocal patterns. No other system on the market or announced for a home console has this capability, and what it can mean for games where characterization is of great significance (RPG lovers take note) is simply off the charts.

Sadly, Microsoft has yet to announce a release date for this impressive new device, but given that they’re now in a race against time to beat Sony’s new Wiimote to market, to say nothing of Nintendo’s Wii Motion Plus, which is already on the market, it’s likely that this device has already been placed onto a priority track in Redmond. I wouldn’t be surprised in the coming months to hear of a massive internal push by Microsoft to get developers up to speed with this technology, retrofit high profile existing games for which it will make sense, and get the device into the hands of consumers as soon as possible. If they’re smart, they’ll also bundle it with consoles moving forward to ensure a reasonable amount of developer support, but we’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled.

What do you think of Natal? Was the announcement of Project Natal at E3 Next-Gen technology or gimmick (or both?) Let us know what you think in the comments!

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