Microsoft has changed the rules of computer gaming with its Project Natal. Computer and video games have become the major source of entertainment for most people today. Traditional computer games come with controllers which users use to control the game but Natal has changed that. Natal’s rules are that, the user controls the game directly with his actions; no attached controllers.
Microsoft organized a press event recently, in which media personnel were treated to a feel of the project. They were hosted in a room with the device, which they interacted with. Microsoft is set to present Natal to the general public during the 2010 edition of the Electronics Entertainment Expo, E3.
Natal is a computer game developed by Microsoft for its Xbox 360 gaming console. The add-on peripheral attached to the console enables a natural user interface through which users interact with the Xbox 360, without using any game controller hardware. The game is controlled using gestures; facial and body, objects and images presented to the interface of commands issued orally.
The interface is able to detect color differences, body movements and voice commands. As soon as a user gets into range of the interface, the avatar in the game takes the user’s stance. Any movement performed by the user is imitated by the avatar. The avatar is also able to sense and interpret voice commands and responds accordingly. Imagine playing a video football game with a friend. The ball is kicked when you perform a kick or say “kick” or the keeper catches the ball when you move with a ball catching gesture or say “catch”. This is the game.
Though not much has been revealed of the hardware, Sony is believed to hold the rights to it. The outer component is a black television-like box. Natal is said to incorporate and RGB camera, a microphone which is said to be a multi-array, an infrared camera, among others. The RGB and infrared cameras identify players and record their movements and transmits them to another hardware which translated them to the avatar movement. The microphone takes the voice commands or other audio inputs without any need of a headset.
Natal is able to detect changes in a player and also handle multiple players at the same time, with its ability to recognize the shape of the face of players and different lighting conditions. It is also said to include fault tolerance in it design. It is said to be able to handle obstructions such as someone covering part of a player. The press demonstration worked well but the fundamental question most people are asking is whether Natal will work in noisy environments, with crowds and music at the background.
Natal, promises to take gamers to a new gaming world by bringing real user participation into the world of video games. It is slated to be released in October 2010 and be commercially available by December. Some people however view Natal as a hybrid of the Nintendo’s controller and Sony’s “Eye Toy”.