LOS ANGELES – The Electronic Entertainment Expo hasn’t even officially started yet, and already a major announcement has come to light.
Microsoft Corp. had been widely predicted to unveil at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, a wireless motion sensing controller for their leading Xbox 360 video game and entertainment console.
The fortune tellers were close, but they left out one detail: its not a controller at all.
Microsoft’s Project Natal, revealed for the first time at a media briefing at the University of Southern California’s Galen Center in downtown Los Angeles on Monday morning, is a set-top device that promises to recognize users’ voices, faces, and emotions and allow for total body motion capture with no device or controller physically on the user.
The device, which has no set release date, will work with all Xbox 360 consoles.
“Surely we’ve been making interactive games for 20 years right? 30 years? No I don’t think we have,” said Peter Molyneux of Microsoft’s Lionhead Studios. Molyneux called the hand-held video game controller “the biggest barrier,” to what developers want to create in the world of interactive entertainment.
In a demonstration of the technology, Microsoft programmed an artificial intelligence of a young British boy and played a video of the boy interacting with an employee. The boy immediately recognized her voice and face and responded to her tone of voice. For instance, when the woman player firmly asked the boy if he had finished his homework, the boy looked down, away from the camera, and looked embarrassed.
In another impressive feature, the woman drew a picture of a fish and “handed it” to the boy by gesturing it toward the camera. The boy responded by virtually “picking up” a piece of paper. An identical virtual representation of the drawing appears on screen and the boy recognizes the colors and shapes.
The unveil was the biggest announcement at Microsoft’s two-hour conference, which included announcements about several new games including, for the first game, a title in the Metal Gear Solid franchise — previously a Sony Playstation exclusive — coming to the Xbox 360. The title, Metal Gear Rising, has no announced released date.