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Why Natal Is a Big Deal

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the things-to-combine-with-a-vr-headset dept.

Input Devices 303

Kikizo has an editorial piece evaluating the Xbox 360's upcoming motion-control scheme, Project Natal, and discussing why it's a bigger step forward for interactive gaming than many people think. Quoting: "[Natal] accurately perceives players in 3D space, simultaneously tracking over 48 joints on your body, enabling it to accurately redraw your skeleton in real time as you move about. On a separate 'debug screen' in the closed-doors session, we could witness for ourselves the 'mind's eye' of Natal, visually showing how it completely understands where we are, how we're moving, where we are in 3D space, how far in front of my face my hand is, whatever. It can supposedly even track individual hand and finger movement when it switches into this more finely-tuned mode. ... There is a surprising feeling of tactility and iPhone-like fluidity and precision to the way Natal works." Another interesting bit of news about Natal is that Wii-hacker Johnny Chung Lee is part of the development team. We've discussed some of his creations in the past.

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"I can't wait to throw a fireball." (5, Interesting)

dalmiroy2k (768278) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306373)

Xbox Project Natal : Felicia Day
"I can't wait to throw a fireball."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYuJivFFa-c [youtube.com]

Re:"I can't wait to throw a fireball." (2, Interesting)

onion2k (203094) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306583)

Excellent video demonstration of why Natal *will fail* (at least in the UK and Japan). Land is much less of a scarce resource in the USA so houses can have big open areas, but in countries with a higher population density people's houses just don't have that much space. Unless Microsoft can persuade people to rearrange their living spaces to make room by removing coffee tables, buying smaller sofas, etc Natal just won't be accessible for many people.

Re:"I can't wait to throw a fireball." (4, Insightful)

Eponymous Crowbar (974055) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306707)

So the Wii is also failing in those areas? It requires a similar amount of space to play Wii Sports.... maybe a small amount less, but not much.

Re:"I can't wait to throw a fireball." (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28306759)

Someone obviously never discovered you can play wii sports golf sitting down and swinging the wii-mote over your head. Although in all seriousness I do have quite a large / empty living room (for the UK), and a few of the more enthusiastic wii games do have space issues, there have been more than one wii tennis related injury in my household, also having a £1000 TV on the wall makes one a bit apprehensive about getting "too involved"

Re:"I can't wait to throw a fireball." (2, Interesting)

Eponymous Crowbar (974055) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306833)

That's cool, but perhaps a tennis-based Natal game could be tuned to respond to simple flicks of the wrist instead of depending on an overhead slam motion? I would expect something along those lines.

Re:"I can't wait to throw a fireball." (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28307481)

Or even better, they could convert it to take tactile feedback from the movement of one's thumbs and fingers. You could use a small controller. Oh, wait.

Re:"I can't wait to throw a fireball." (1)

hoooocheymomma (1020927) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307507)

Um. This was a demo that simply shows that there is a one to one correlation between your human skeleton's movements, and natal's in-game skeleton that represents you.

Nobody said that all games will require you to dance around a 20ftX20ft space in order to hit dodge balls. You CAN do that with the technology. That doesn't mean a game can't be calibrated to make your game much more sensitive to small movements...

Re:"I can't wait to throw a fireball." (1)

kieran (20691) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307067)

Goddamit! Now I'm going to have to buy a fucking 360...

(I have a PS3 that I rarely play on, and decided to wait on the Wii until there was a game out I REALLY had to have - hasn't happened yet.)

Re:"I can't wait to throw a fireball." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28307197)

Please note: Xbox360 does not come with Felicia Day (much to our chagrin).

Re:"I can't wait to throw a fireball." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28307577)

And this is the fatal flaw in Microsoft's plan.

The Gamertag Report (2, Interesting)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306391)

I could see myself controlling my Xbox interface like Tom Cruise in Minority Report. Granted it wouldn't add much to the functionality, but damn if that wouldn't be the coolest gadget ever.

Re:The Gamertag Report (4, Insightful)

GeorgeStone22 (1532191) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306599)

Did anyone else get out of breath just watching the girl play breakout? I can only see Natal taking off as an exercise tool in regards to using it as a control system. If I could fight effectively using my body then I wouldn't be doing roundhouse kicks at a TV screen, I would be at my local martial arts center sparing. IMO the point of video games is to escape reality.

Re:The Gamertag Report (2, Interesting)

slashmojo (818930) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306715)

Well you could go to the local martial arts center to spar with a real opponent but that also comes with drawback of real brain damage when you get kicked in the head! ;)

At least with the xbox you only have to worry about 'trivial' stuff like pulled muscles and heart attacks - unless players start trying back flips or something.

Somehow I foresee many lawsuits coming out of project natal..

Looks awesome though.

Re:The Gamertag Report (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28307265)

Just because they're overdoing it in the video doesn't mean you'll be forced to use it that way. Natal looks sensitive enough that it can track very fine movements of your limbs, so little motion would actually be required.

Re:The Gamertag Report (2, Interesting)

WCLPeter (202497) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307093)

I'm much more interested in Milo [youtube.com] and the potential for a personal assistant.

Wouldn't it be nice to come home and say something like, "Good afternoon Milo, did I get any new messages?" and then have him give me an itemized listing. Throw in some call display, my contact list, and the apparently impressive speech recognition, I could have something very unique and personal, "Hey Peter, welcome home. Your mom called, twice, and your sister wants to know if you're going to dinner with her and the kids next Saturday."

Of course, being a geek, I'd want my assistant to look and sound like Lexa Doig [google.ca] . ;-)

Another Reason It's Important (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306401)

After scanning this article, I'm kind of worried. Everyone's jumping into 3D immersive technology and that's great. Heck, I own a Wii myself ... but one thing I don't like about it is my inability to become really good at a game that relies on WiiMote motion. I don't know what the deal is but the learning curve seems really easy yet once you get there there is no way to differentiate between the 98 percentile player and the 99 percentile player. Now, I haven't gotten addicted to the WiiMote intensive games and I'm grateful that games like Super Smash Bros. don't rely on 3D motion of the WiiMote. It's just too complex and inaccurate. That said, this screenshot [kikizo.com] really worried me. No controller required or controller optional?

I welcome this new technology but as an avid gamer I'm more than a little bit afraid that with this new technology everyone is going to be expected to take advantage of it on the XBox360. We might be jumping into a new dimension too fast for software and hardware to support it. I know a lot of people would argue with that statement but Wii games feel 'soft' when they are WiiMote intensive and I wonder if Project Natal will feel the same way. Don't get me wrong, they are great games for four people to play while getting loaded.

I guess Nintendo pioneered what is the next step in video games much like Sony pioneering the transition from directional pad to miniature joystick. My question now is really whether or not the PS3 will follow suit. They have to in order to attract these motion titles, don't they?

Space Requirements? (2, Funny)

earls (1367951) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306441)

Haha, yeah, with multiplayer you can get punched out on screen AND in real life.

Re:Another Reason It's Important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28307055)

Sony demonstrated their "Wand" motion controller recently. That appears to use EyeTV and a wiimote-like device.

Re:Another Reason It's Important (3, Informative)

racerx509 (204322) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307087)

I guess Nintendo pioneered what is the next step in video games much like Sony pioneering the transition from directional pad to miniature joystick. My question now is really whether or not the PS3 will follow suit. They have to in order to attract these motion titles, don't they?

Nintendo pioneered the miniature joystick as well. The n64 had analog sticks more than a year before the dual shock debuted. Nintendo always innovates, while everyone else takes.

Re:Another Reason It's Important (1)

berwiki (989827) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307143)

This is Generation 1. Don't get your panties in a bunch just yet.
Remember the NES? and *only* two action buttons?!
It'll be alright, I promise.

Re:Another Reason It's Important (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28307309)

listen... the change is this, YOU actually have to move your body to be good. all the fat lazy AWESOME gamers hate this. i don't blame them. games are the way non-athletes feel cool (i being one myself) but this 3d stuff, if there is no remote, the athletic people start being better and then what are we left with? back to being a loser that 's not good at anything.

Re:Another Reason It's Important (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307503)

Firstly, the N64 had a mini joystick before the original Playstation. The original Playstation controller from 1994 only had a D-Pad, The Dual shock [wikipedia.org] was released later in 1997. The N64 came out in 1996.

Also, how immersed do you want to be in your game? I have a Wii, but I find a lot of time I'd rather play a game like Mario Galaxy, where it does use the motion sensing, but doesn't require you go be standing up, and getting your entire body into it. It's really nice for certain games, like golf, to have a life like feel, but I don't think it works well for all games. A lot of times I'll just start up an old virtual console game, and use the classic controller. Then again, I find I get enough exercise away from my console, that I don't need to do more when I'm playing video games.

Oblig. (5, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306403)

http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/6/5/ [penny-arcade.com]

"SirWangALot hits you with his 'Pendulous Apendage of Pendulousnous' for 2 bashing damage, and you are afflicted with 'Point and Laugh Hysterically!' for 10 seconds.

Microsoft desperately flogigng dead horse (0, Flamebait)

Zoidbot (1194453) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306413)

They have realised they have been trumped by the PS3 at the top end, with hardcore gaming, high-end graphical capabilities, and high end featues like Blu-Ray, so now they are setting their sights at the low end instead, competing against the Wii for the casual gamer. I don't think it will work personally. As Sony also have eyes on this space too (and arguably more mature technology, which they were able to demo live - unlike Microsofts fantasy showcase).

Only 48 Joints? (5, Funny)

qpawn (1507885) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306419)

They could release an adult version of Project Natal that tracks 49 joints. That would make for a VERY interactive experience.

Re:Only 48 Joints? (1)

remmelt (837671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307101)

No, over 48 joints.

What do they mean? 49? 50? 300?

At least it's more than 48! We know that much!

Excited about it but there are still problems (2, Insightful)

grapeape (137008) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306425)

Im really looking forward to Natal, I think its one step closer to total immersion, however its not without problems. A wand or some sort of controller is still going to be needed to effectively "walk" in a game the only other way to do it would be to use some sort of gesture to glide the player along or to walk in place, neither of which is very practical. Using a gesture to walk forward in an FPS or RPG for instance would not only be awkward but would also completely destroy the "immersion" they are going for and anyone who has played Final Fantasy would balk at the idea of having to "moonwalk" your way across the map.

I can easily see it working in conjunction with a controller for those types of situations though and would still make the game more fun. The gesture recognition has me thinking about Fable 3, especially with Lionhead already playing with the technology. Fable 3 used a gesture menu that caused NPC's to react differently and say different things based on the "mood" or jesture your character portrayed. Just thinking about being able to talk (even with a limited amount of things be able to say) to the npc's, or to be able to sneer, growl or smile and get a reaction sounds extremely fun. I still see this as being a rather long way off but its undeniable that its a leap forward.

I had the pleasure of playing with a Z-Cam at last years CES, Natal is supposedly based partially on that and partially on something MS has been developing for years, the Z-Cam was already impressive, if with the melding of technology this is actually an improvement its going to be something to behold.

Re:Excited about it but there are still problems (1)

BurzumNazgul (1163509) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306577)

Completely capturing the act of walking in a game will have a dramatic impact on game design (duh). I'm not saying it's a bad thing but it will be interesting to see how it changes the play of first person shooters. Left 4 Dead is one that comes readily to mind, probably because I can't stop playing it. The characters do a lot of walking as they try to move through a zombie infested world. Their health level directly effects the speed they can move and attacks temporarily slow movement to a crawl.

I don't doubt that one day we have games that support walking around and it will be a great step in fulfilling our holideck fantasies. I'd think that a useful interface for FPS games would be a combination of motion sensing for actions (aiming, looking, interacting with doors, objects, light switches) and current style controls for actually moving your character in the environment. It seems like a good balance for those 6 hour, Saturday afternoon gaming sessions.

Re:Excited about it but there are still problems (1)

triffid_98 (899609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306653)

Im really looking forward to Natal, I think its one step closer to total immersion, however its not without problems. A wand or some sort of controller is still going to be needed to effectively "walk" in a game the only other way to do it would be to use some sort of gesture to glide the player along or to walk in place, neither of which is very practical. Using a gesture to walk forward in an FPS or RPG for instance would not only be awkward but would also completely destroy the "immersion" they are going for and anyone who has played Final Fantasy would balk at the idea of having to "moonwalk" your way across the map.

I don't think this is a huge issue. 1 Natal controller + 1 generic DDR pad = problem solved?

Re:Excited about it but there are still problems (1)

Eponymous Crowbar (974055) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306769)

You are onto something that I think is important -- you can use Natal with a regular controller in your hand. See, a game built from the ground up to exclusively use gestures is one thing, and it could be very cool. But I can imagine uses for Natal in every other game that I currently play with a regular controller. Imagine fighting real-time in a dungeon crawler with your standard 360 controller, and being able to use your voice or quick gestures to cast spells or issue commands to the rest of your AI party? Voice controls could be huge in a lot of games. And I already make one-handed gestures to opponents in various games -- now, they can really mean something! So, don't think of this as a one trick pony. Consider other possibilities...

Re:Excited about it but there are still problems (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307461)

Well, yeah, voice recognition is great, but why use Natal for that? A simple headset would work just as fine. And the spell-casting gets problematic very quickly, as you need to let go the controller, such application would make much more sense if Microsoft would release a split controller. As it, that stuff would just be awkward.

Re:Excited about it but there are still problems (3, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307619)

This is the thing I've wondered about the most.

As I've said in response to a previous article though, I feel even having a game like Gears of War controlled as normal but with the added ability to "physically" duck particles or move to cover would add a whole new level of immersion. Even if I had to walk and look with the controller I still see a lot of scope.

Of course, one solution would be just to provide a cut down controller like the Wii nunchuck. Again another thing I pointed out in a previous thread is that Natal doesn't preclude the use of extra controllers - Guitar Hero can still use Guitars but give you extra points and extra interactivity for rocking like a true rockstar as you play ;)

I think the best thing to take away from what Natal can do is that it adds a new dimension to interactivity, a dimension that can be used on it's own, or simply to enhance the experience of existing games. I think really it has to be taken in the context of what it can add to gaming, rather than the idea that it's a whole replacement or whole new way of doing things, but simultaneously that's not to say that it doesn't open doors for whole new styles of control as well.

Despite all that I do not expect us to see much from it this console generation, I do not believe it will be released and then have time to really flourish until the next console generation, i.e. I think it'll be 2 years before we really see Natal come into it's own.

iPhone-like fluidity, FFS (5, Insightful)

CubicleView (910143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306461)

"iPhone-like fluidity"

gimmie a break. How and why did you manage to fit a reference to the iphone into the summary.

iPhone-like subject line here (2, Insightful)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306823)

I agree! It's bad enough trying to turn "iPhone" into a generic noun to replace the perfectly good word we already have: phone - now we get to use it as an adjective? (Although perhaps we should - if successful, Apple lose their trademark!)

I honestly can't even fathom what he means by it - although I suppose it's true that Natal doesn't have a keyboard, and probably doesn't have copy/paste...

Anyhow, now I'm off to iPhone-like read the rest of the ipHone-like Slashdot on my iPHone-like computer (it can access web pages, see! Although mine has a keyboard).

Re:iPhone-like fluidity, FFS (2, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306911)

"iPhone-like fluidity"

gimmie a break. How and why did you manage to fit a reference to the iphone into the summary.

No, no, that made up adjective was very informative. I now know that Project Natal will have the same viscosity as the iPhone [youtube.com] .

Re:iPhone-like fluidity, FFS (1)

riffzifnab (449869) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306965)

This must be a new American unit of measure for viscosity. Water has .98 iphones at 80 degrees (on the hogshead).

Re:iPhone-like fluidity, FFS (1)

kieran (20691) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307089)

I've got an android phone, and I've tried out the hacked multitouch. I've never even wanted an iPhone, but I've played with the multitouch and it responds perfectly, fluidly, intruitively. The android multitouch hack feels very clumsy by comparison.

Off the couch. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28306477)

If you think that the Wii Remote waggling is work, wait till you see how so much more gimmicky Project Natal is. To think that only a few years back, both companies are lambasting Nintendo for its step forward.

Why would gamers want something "refreshing" such as:

--- "I-whine-about-waggling-my-wrist-but-I-would-definitely-get-off-my-couch-to-do-a-lot-more-work-for-5-minutes-on-a-gimmicky-game"
--- FULL-BODY motion (hint: getting off the couch)
--- getting off the couch

Re:Off the couch. (1)

theIsovist (1348209) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306565)

See, the thing is that it doesn't have to be gimicky. There have been a lot of bad with motion capture control, but there have been a few gems. I remember there being an arcade shooter a few years back, where instead of pressing a pedal to duck, you literally had to duck to the side. It was incredibly immersive. Personally, I'd love to see a natal "Punchout" game, where you actually had to punch and dodge. I think the issue is that game developers have had a few decades of hand-only input. Give them a few years with this new technology, and we're bound to see something that will blow our minds.

Re:Off the couch. (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306671)

y, I'd love to see a natal "Punchout" game, where you actually had to punch and dodge.

I remember having seen similar type of games for Arcades (I *think* it was from Sega, although I am not sure) some time ago (maybe 7 years?).

Aside from being an interesting gimmick, it gets old very fast.

Re:Off the couch. (2, Funny)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306777)

I think the issue is that game developers have had a few decades of hand-only input.

That explains how we got DOA beach volleyball...

Hardhack potential (1)

Hogwash McFly (678207) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306485)

This thing is crying out for applications beyond games (which will be interesting, don't get me wrong). Imagine hooking this up to your front door - you could use the gesture recognition to make it so that your door only unlocks for people when they do the Truffle Shuffle!

Re:Hardhack potential (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306561)

gesture recognition to make it so that your door only unlocks for people when they do the Truffle Shuffle!

Whatever turns you on, dude. I'm setting mine to "Big-Breasted Naked Lady with Case of Beer"

Re:Hardhack potential (3, Funny)

oneirophrenos (1500619) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306635)

Prepare to not getting a lot of visitors, then

Re:Hardhack potential (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306651)

gesture recognition to make it so that your door only unlocks for people when they do the Truffle Shuffle!

Whatever turns you on, dude. I'm setting mine to "Big-Breasted Naked Lady with Case of Beer"

I'd like to point out that the second system is backwards compatible.

Re:Hardhack potential (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306975)

I just remembered... Prior art! [youtube.com]

Re:Hardhack potential (1)

matt328 (916281) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307281)

Couldn't you go the other way with it as well and basically have a homebrew mocap system?

Mouse? (3, Interesting)

robvangelder (472838) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306487)

If this technology is as good as it sounds, this spells the end of the mouse.
Seriously, my mousepad could be a touchpad.

Would probably need a thimble to avoid friction burn though.

Re:Mouse? (1)

cr_nucleus (518205) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306843)

Mouse pads are sooo 90's.

Go optical man, you never go back...

Re:Mouse? (2, Interesting)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306955)

If this technology is as good as it sounds, this spells the end of the mouse.
Seriously, my mousepad could be a touchpad.

Would probably need a thimble to avoid friction burn though.

The resolution isn't remotely close to being able to replace a mouse. Why do we use mice instead of touch screens?

1) They allow us to interact with our screens with our hands in a neutral position. A simplified and reengineered Natal could do this.

2) They allow us to move across a thousand pixels with only an inch of movement. It's going to be awhile before the precision of the mouse comes to motion recognition. Even then, motion recognition tends to have small jitter, and if it sees my hand with less than 0.001" precision (not that I can even keep my hand still on that length scale), the cursor will jump around.

Re:Mouse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28307539)

A precision of .0016 would actually only match the accuracy of older ball mice (600dpi).

I'm used to my 2500dpi (0.0004) laser mouse now and for people like me you're going to have to do a lot better before getting us to switch.

Re:Mouse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28307069)

If this technology is as good as it sounds, this spells the end of the mouse.
Seriously, my mousepad could be a touchpad.

Would probably need a thimble to avoid friction burn though.

Imagine the new types of mouse- arm/wrist/hand damages what would occur if officepeople should breakdance in order to open Excel.

Re:Mouse? (5, Interesting)

qchan (1402387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307085)

This technology seems kinda fake to me. If you refer back to E3 where they first showcased the device, there were several odd and unexplained things going on. 1) The twitchy avatar character shown (especially when the guy tried to show the bottom of his shoe and couldn't.) seemed to show that the technology wasn't really complete. 2) The other presenters wore dark clothing that seemed to contrast better with their surroundings. Yet, the people in the promotional video wore more colorful clothing. 3) The device only seemed to be able to detect only wide movement and not subtle movement like the promotional video suggested. 4) Most core gamers would like to take advantage of this technology. However, most gamers like to play in dark rooms. It seems to me that it'll be more difficult for this camera to adjust to harsh lighting conditions (dark rooms, lens flare, moving background lights, etc.). 5) It didn't feel as though the camera could decipher between more than one person, because no one (presenters or journalist in the closed room) tried to test it with that in mind. Sure it could detect more than one person; but could it tell the difference between the two? 6) Where are the games that utilize this technology? It seemed that all that was available were tech demos. I'd very much like to see this technology put to use in actual real time environments instead of controlled environments. It gives me the sense that this project is a little premature and may not see the light of day for a long time.

Re:Mouse? (1)

Zenaku (821866) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307361)

I'm sure it isn't ready for prime time yet, but you seem to be criticizing a tech demo for being a tech demo.

Of course there are going to be glitches and limitations, and of course there are no games for it yet. It was just a tech demo. An exciting one if you ask me -- I want to know when it will be done so I can get it! You seem to be of the opinion that nobody should hear of its existence until it is production ready and hits store shelves with a dozen games along side it.

Oh, and a dark room is not going to be a problem. Project Natal floods the room in infrared light, which its camera can see in, and you can't.

Re:Mouse? (1)

qchan (1402387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307565)

But doesn't Project Natal need ambient lighting conditions in order to function properly? In a pitch dark room, I would imagine the device would be useless (even with infrared). Last I checked, infrared can't detect color. I also don't think it can tell the difference between two people in a dark room without being able to detect color.

Re:Mouse? (1)

HappyClown (668699) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307591)

You either didn't RTFA or you're just trolling, because all these points are covered quite clearly.

Re:Mouse? (1)

polle404 (727386) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307571)

Not in a long while, if I'd have to venture a guess. The precision is too poor yet
But i DO see useful applications for this outside the Wii/Xbox light gaming segment.
If you could do a cross platform hookup, for the TV and the hifi/PC, i would love to be able to control my TV and DVD without the now 4 remotes just in my livingroom.
hell, just the idea of flipping my tv the finger, and seeing it zap away from Fox? I'd pay good $ for that!

imagine walking past your home entertainment center, do a simple (or complex) gesture to flip channel, change the song, etc?

Movie industry knows better (1, Flamebait)

nerd brain (1575325) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306493)

With all the multi-million dollar resources of the movie industry doing motion capture for films, it's a bit telling that they all use the ping-pong ball technique stuck to people. If this 'clever' Microsoft thing is so good, I think the movie industry would have already been using a similar system. Sounds like ping-pong balls are more accurate. Wait - that's what's on the end of the new PS3-mote.

Re:Movie industry knows better (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307071)

I think it's pretty clear what happened here: they got the technology from part of a cyborg chassis from the future.

Obviously this cyborg has an excellent understanding of the human body and how it moves, so that it can kill them more efficiently. They don't call it the "red ring of death" for nothing.

Re:Movie industry knows better (2, Informative)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307425)

>If this 'clever' Microsoft thing is so good, I think the movie industry would have already been using a similar system.

You dont need absurd accuracy for Natal to work. The film industry does. Not to mention people wont wear a suit of ping-pong balls.

The Natal tech is actually very neat. It projects an infrared grid and can measure distance by how the distorted the grid gets. Sorry if it gets in the way of your knee-jerk MS bashing.

Endurance Gaming? (1)

Weeksauce (1410753) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306523)

How well is this going to work for hardcore gamers loging multi hour session? One of my favorite parts of video games is that I can kick back on the couch after work and zone out for hours of mindless entertainment. If I wanted a workout I'd go to the gym!

Re:Endurance Gaming? (2, Interesting)

pankkake (877909) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306691)

Exactly. I watched their commercial (it's not a demo, it's a commercial, and everything is faked) and when I saw the girl "driving" with her hands in the air it hit me : I couldn't last five minutes with this game. When you drive your hands are not in the air, the rest on the wheel. This product is incredibly stupid, and like Surface it will never exist in real life.

Not a "Big Deal" (0)

zombietangelo (1394031) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306545)

Natal is a gimmick.

There, I've said it. While the technology is undeniably incredible (the implications for game customization are very attractive, as shown in the E3 spot, and intelligent recognition is an exciting emerging technology), I cannot imagine a scenario in which I would even want to apply this to playing video games. What many people seemingly do not realize is that controllerless input for video games has been tried and it has failed several times over the years. (Do you even remember the Sega Activator? U-Force? Probably not, because they were utter failures!) I don't want to have to jump around my living room to play the latest Super Mario incarnation. Stop making us wave our arms and legs around like idiots just to play a game. (Plus, if we all give up controllers, my huge thumbs will be genetically undesirable! D:)

Re:Not a "Big Deal" (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306735)

I don't want to have to jump around my living room to play the latest Super Mario incarnation.

Enjoy the ass-print on your couch, potato.

Having spent entirely too little time jumping around, I for one welcome our new House of Pain overlords.

Re:Not a "Big Deal" (1)

Crookdotter (1297179) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307053)

Think about this - you CAN have a controller as well you know. Imagine a FPS with a johnny lee style 3d effect, without having to wear any headgear. Natal seems to provide this out of the box. Now imagine a gun controller where you have fps controls embedded, but like left 4 dead you can also shove opponents away, and you can actually shove them.

What about some LCD glasses and headtracking? That's immersive VR right there.

There is a lot of potential in this.

The real reason Natal is a big deal... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28306559)

Microsoft thinks it can get a piece of the Wii fad pie. Just like the Wii, it won't revolutionize gaming, it will just be a great marketing tool for parents and 30 somethings.

Mom: I don't know son, this new game thingy looks just like your current game thingy with a bigger price tag
(enter Wii/Natal)
Mom: Oh wow! Futuristic game thingy is surely worth my money!
Nintendo/Microsoft: *snicker*

Re:The real reason Natal is a big deal... (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306695)

Microsoft thinks it can get a piece of the Wii fad pie. Just like the Wii, it won't revolutionize gaming, it will just be a great marketing tool for parents and 30 somethings.

Mom: I don't know son, this new game thingy looks just like your current game thingy with a bigger price tag
(enter Wii/Natal)
Mom: Oh wow! Futuristic game thingy is surely worth my money!
Nintendo/Microsoft: *snicker*

Yup, this completely reflects on an Uncle who is completely computer illiterate and is one of those guys who only let his daughter see 1 hour of TV a day.

He says that he does not let his kids play videogames... except for Wii which has some real value.

Natal is a big waste of cash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28306585)

I predict it will be expensive and be a flop. If anything only because casual gamers like the Wii and "core" gamers do no want Wii-like motion based games.

Depth sensing camera (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28306587)

The project Natal is indeed different for an Eye tool of a wii mote. This is a depth sensing camera (you have a RGB image and an image with the distance to the camera). This camera is made by Primesense (you can check theirs patents), it works by projecting a grid (infrared so you can't see it). By analyzing the deformed pattern with a camera, the depth is computed.
Having the deep information is really useful because you get the 3d cloud of the user and with some math, you can guess where is the user and what he is doing. For example you can find the biggest cluster of point (the user). The mass center of these points will give you the position of the user (this is already enough to to a lot of thing).
But the technology is not perfect. It will never be a full replacement for motion capture because it's subject to occlusions and there are a lot of ambiguous cases so the system will always need to cheat.

Another gimmick (1)

mc moss (1163007) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306629)

I don't see this replacing the mouse and keyboard or controller. It may be fun for a few minutes but I'm sure it will get tiring playing games such as rpg's and having to swing your arm every time to attack. Or holding your hands in the air when playing a racing game.

Natal IR detection won't work in your living room (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28306661)

From the demo picture, it looks like you need a closed room with air conditioning for the IR system to function properly. This will perfectly feat you current geek basement room (at least for the absence of windows), but what about the average user ?

Re:Natal IR detection won't work in your living ro (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306727)

From the demo picture, it looks like you need a closed room with air conditioning for the IR system to function properly. This will perfectly feat you current geek basement room (at least for the absence of windows), but what about the average user ?

And worse yet, what about playing in the day... when the sun is looking directly at the windows... or with fluorecent lamps. More than once I have had to close the curtains of my living room while trying to play with the Wii.

Re:Natal IR detection won't work in your living ro (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307213)

More than once I have had to close the curtains of my living room while trying to play with the Wii.

You should probably do that anyway, just to be considerate.

Re:Natal IR detection won't work in your living ro (1)

Zoidbot (1194453) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307573)

You also need white skin, and red jumpsuits for it to work.

Not so much a big deal in and of itself... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28306663)

...but it's a great step towards touchless interfaces. I'm pretty sure we'll eventually have touchless interfaces based on gestural controls along with enhanced voice recognition technologies for our computers. It's the next logical step really. How close that is to reality, however, is a matter of debate. I don't think it's coming as soon as we'd expect, but I also believe that it's going to come about in our lifetime.

No thanks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28306711)

Natal is cool, but it looks mainly to be gimmicky for people that will never play games with a controller. Not for gamers.

Not for cat people (5, Funny)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306729)

Project Natal adds a new dimension for your cat to bother you while playing games.

Re:Not for cat people (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28306915)

oh hai! i r in ur natal occlooding ur depth senzer

Re:Not for cat people (1)

PingSpike (947548) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307371)

Now, not only can the cat block the television causing your in game avatar to die...but he can trip you while playing causing you to bash your skull open on the coffee table.

Perhaps the solution is to capture the motion of the cat as a second party and represent him onscreen alongside you.

What about people with disabillities? (3, Interesting)

MaXMC (138127) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306811)

Say you only got one arm? or One leg?
Will Natal still work correctly?

EA: Sports 2010
Requirements: Xbox 360, Natal system, no physical disabilites

What happens if I stand just behind my friend and it looks like we have four arms? Will Natal work that out?

Re:What about people with disabillities? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307193)

Say you only got one arm? or One leg?
Will Natal still work correctly?

Say you only got one hand. Will a gamepad still work correctly?

What happens if I stand just behind my friend and it looks like we have four arms? Will Natal work that out?

Since the system handles occlusion, probably not.

Re:What about people with disabillities? (2, Insightful)

Xocet_00 (635069) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307295)

I understand the point you're trying to make, but the question is a bit silly. While I acknowledge that this eliminates more physical disabilities from gameplay than traditional console designs, I don't think that a one-armed person could play, say, Halo on a normal XBox 360 controller either. Further, the much-loved Nintendo Wii has plenty of games that also require the Wii-mote attachment and therefore two hands, including Boxing which ships with the console (part of Wii Sports).

It is unfortunate that people with certain physical disabilities are being excluded from gaming by these new controller designs, but to suggest that game companies shouldn't innovate in this way lest some people be excluded by unfortunate circumstances sounds a lot like a Vonnegut short story to me.

Wii ripoff (-1, Flamebait)

IGnatius T Foobar (4328) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306863)

Doesn't anyone else see this for what it obviously is: a way for Microsoft to steal market share from Nintendo? Sony and Microsoft battled it out over pixel pushing, while Nintendo actually innovated (something Microsoft talks about a lot but never does) and built something new that people really liked -- something that actually got non-gamers onto the scene.

So now they're trying to build "Wii without the Wiimote." This is a "meeee toooo" play, which is Microsoft's usual way of doing business. YAWN.

Re:Wii ripoff (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307083)

Doesn't anyone else see this for what it obviously is: a way for Microsoft to steal market share from Nintendo? Sony and Microsoft battled it out over pixel pushing, while Nintendo actually innovated (something Microsoft talks about a lot but never does) and built something new that people really liked -- something that actually got non-gamers onto the scene.

So now they're trying to build "Wii without the Wiimote." This is a "meeee toooo" play, which is Microsoft's usual way of doing business. YAWN.

You're commenting on motives. I think the "big deal" in the story is referring to potential. Clearly precise tracking of 48 joints is a lot more interesting and powerful than fuzzy tracking of 1-2 clunky controllers.

Re:Wii ripoff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28307151)

...a way for Microsoft to steal market share from Nintendo?

What? Does Nintendo keep its market share hidden away in its sock drawer? I'm not exactly keen on Project Natal myself, but if this pushes Ninty to further develop and improve the Wiimote, more power to them.

This is a "meeee toooo" play, which is Microsoft's usual way of doing business.

No, this is SOP for millions of businesses around the world.

Re:Wii ripoff (1)

HertzaHaeon (1164143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307235)

Sony are much closer to the Wii with their motion control wand they showed off at E3.

But I don't really care about who was first. I care only about who does it best. Nintendo have done a great job with the Wii, but they seriously need some competition in the casual market.

Re:Wii ripoff (1)

destroyer661 (847607) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307313)

With how good Natal *allegedly* is I highly doubt this development started as soon as the Wiimote dropped out of the womb. This is far from a me too play, the Wiimote is like a shitty sawed off magic wand you use to control things like tennis rackets, golf clubs and boxing gloves. Project Natal could provide actual running/walking around on a treadmill like interface which could allow virtual worlds (See RPGs) to be so much more real and involving.

Re:Wii ripoff (2, Insightful)

Spatial (1235392) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307473)

'Steal' it? It's called competition.

Sony and Microsoft battled it out over pixel pushing, while Nintendo actually innovated (something Microsoft talks about a lot but never does) and built something new that people really liked -- something that actually got non-gamers onto the scene.

When Sony or Microsoft do what you praise Nintendo for, it's bad? Their technology is clearly innovative and different to the Wii.

The fact is they can have their high end processing power and graphics, and fun motion controls on top of that. They'll probably be better able to utilise them because of that power and make more fun games that wouldn't be possible with the Wii's hardware limitations. As someone interested in games, and not Sacred Nintendo's market share, it seems like a good thing to me.

[/Wii owner]

Of 2 minds (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#28306943)

I'm of 2 minds about this. On 1 hand, this is really neat and could lead to some nice games. On the other hand, the Wii has produced the crappiest set of games of any console I've ever owned. No console of mine has ever had so much off-time before. The Wii showed the same promise that this does...

Also, the driving games... They insist they will be perfectly responsive and all that, but there's no way that much processing can go on and add no lag whatsoever. And any time it glitches and thinks my hands are in the wrong spot, I'll go out of control.

Another reason I am so down on this is the 360's current camera based games. They all suck. I bought a camera just for them and they are horrid.

Quake (1)

idigitallDotCom (1396193) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307035)

I'd be interested in seeing how you play Quake/Prince of Persia (Climbing walls and jumping around) on it......probably have to run around the room - get a lot exercise that way - but what if you don't have the space? I like not having to move much to get things done.

What I like more is not the gaming aspect, but the VR aspect. I'd love to see the first networked virtual worlds that come out of this system...

Re:Quake (1)

ifrag (984323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307447)

Well, as far as Quake goes I don't see much difference, camping the rocket launcher spawn point isn't gonna change much.

Infra-red is a color, you nitwit. (1, Interesting)

Cordath (581672) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307157)

"Natal does not track players by colour (although we know from Milo commenting on my blue shirt that it can if it wants to); it tracks them by infra-red "

Gah! Willful, unthinking ignorance like this really yanks my chain. When you get things like this wrong it makes me want to ignore you completely, because you're probably an idiot. There are several mistakes like this in that article, and the continual invoking of "magic" is particularly bad. There is quite a fair bit known about how Natal works. If you somehow missed it at E3, look it up slacker! If you really want to persuade people, sound like you were paying attention at E3 for chrissake.

As for addressing the claim that hardcore gamers don't want to jump around in front of their couch rather than sitting on it and twiddling their thumbs...

Fail.

There's something truly awesome about sitting back, taking a piece of clunky plastic in your hands, and gaming the night away with some good ol' fashioned haptic feedback. Maybe Natal is precise enough to read your finger positions without needing a controller, but it still can't give you tactile feedback. Incidentally, spinning your hands in the air to control a car is actually a step further away from total immersion as compared to spinning a steering wheel in the air, because real cars have steering wheels!

Don't get me wrong. Natal is still an epic achievement, but hardcore gamers should probably realize it's more for their mothers than them. Take a look at the Wii. It's sort of a gimmick. A lot of people get one, play it for a couple months, and then pull it out only for parties. Why just parties? For one thing, it has a lot of games that are easy to learn and offer little advantage to the master, meaning almost anyone can win by the end of a session. It's also fundamentally enjoyable watching people spaz out in front of the thing before they realize it's all in the wrist. Given the Wii's relative lack of depth, why has it outsold the PS3 and Xbox360 combined several times over? Broad appeal. Your mom doesn't see the point of yet another game about saving Master Chief's undies from alien zombies, but air-golfing? Score.

Look at how MS operates and you'll figure out what's going on here pretty quick. Natal isn't the next generation of hardcore gaming. It's the Internet explorer of casual gaming come to dethrone Nintendo's Netscape. The Wii showed Sony and MS how monolithically massive the casual gaming market is, and now they want in. Natal is a slash aimed squarely at Nintendo's jugular, and they're going to have to innovate our pants off and then fellate us to stay in business.

So, will Natal ever do anything for hardcore gaming? I don't know. Natal, or something like it, will someday. It really is in the hands of the software developers though. I applaud MS for giving us a whole new bag of tricks, but I honestly don't expect a hardcore gaming Nirvana to come out of the mist like the author of that article does. I expect Wii-type gimmicky crap that will be a whole lot of fun at parties, and for your mom, but not that fantastic for late night fragging. Emotional AI and speech recognition is bloody impressive, but Turing test passing AI is still very bloody hard stuff. They can put this stuff into games, but at some point you'll probably feel like you're trapped in a world full of Dr.Sbaitso's. Scripted dialogue trees (Mass effect is a great example of doing those well) aren't going to go away for quite some time. In reality, the tools MS is giving us will take years or decades to refine on the software side of things. Existing input methods, like mice or gamepads, have been around for several decades and are heavily optimized. They're not going to be replaced in one generation.

Peripherals fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28307195)

The problem with the natal is that it's a peripheral. Further more, it's not a peripheral built for a game, but it's a peripheral built to have games made for it. Can anyone give an example of such a peripheral that has been a huge success? I can't think of any. Any developer wanting to make a game for it is going to come to the realization that maybe only 10% of xbox owners will ever have the natal. The reason the wii has so many games that use the wiimote is because it's not a peripheral. Any developer wanting to make a game for the wiimote knows that 100% of wii owners have a wiimote.

The only way I see it being successful is if they package it (or a better version of it) with their next console.

The new Wii Fit (4, Insightful)

grumbel (592662) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307325)

I always see Natal being compared to MotionPlus and Sonys Motion sensing, but I think that isn't really correct. Both MotionPlus and Sonys solution feature more or less classic controllers, but with motion sensing added. Both of them also have heavy focus on wrist movement, while ignoring the rest of the body.

Natal on the other side features no controller at all, thus no buttons and analogsticks, making navigation through pretty much any normal game impossible or at least really cumbersome. On top of that Natal doesn't put emphasis on the wrist/hand, but on the whole body, so you lose a lot of the small movement precision that MotionPlus and Sonys solution have. So Natal really isn't an improvement over other motion sensing solution, as it can't do what those can.

So what is it? Pretty much the same thing as WiiFit or EyeToy, just in an improved form and those didn't exactly turn out as hardcore gamers best friends either. Natal will fail for the same reason. Positional information on where your arms and legs are just aren't enough for precise gameplay, you need buttons for that. Look for example at Ricochet, you have to punch the ball into the game instead of doing the more natural thing of throwing it. Why? Because there is nothing in Natal that could give the game a clear idea when the player let the virtual ball go.

Unless somebody comes up with some actual interesting gameconcepts instead of the full-body-waggle, that Ricochet is, I remain highly skeptical on the future of Natal. At this point it looks like an interesting techdemo, not like a way to control future games.

Natal might be the first step towards the next gaming revolution, but so was the Powerglove, that alone doesn't turn it into a useful peripheral.

Gimic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28307457)

Standard interfaces have nothing to fear from this.

The accuracy and resolution are probably very poor compared to your standard 800dpi mouse.

Standard console controllers have buttons, so the only way control could be achieved in the same manner would be gesture control, and that is a huge pain in the ass.

You have to remember the gestures and then get them exactly how the sensor wants them or else it will do nothing, or worse the wrong thing.

This isn't a step towards true virtual reality, IE. the "matrix". Without a direct neural interface you will never have a true, full immersion, virtual environment.

in the end (1)

markringen (1501853) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307471)

in the end people don't care how something works.

Way beyond just gaming (1)

SolarStorm (991940) | more than 5 years ago | (#28307561)

First I would write games that combine the standard or specialized controllers with Natal. This will give new meaning to games like Guitar Hero as you try and press the keys behind your back!

But I can see this extending way beyond gaming. I coach high level amature sports (soccer and hockey) one of my favorite tools is the video camera. Now what if you could put a player on a skating treadmill infront of an XBox and and provide real time stride analysis.

Imagine a golf game with a REAL club. How long will it be before some adds "prop" recognition to their games.

Think of the other controlling aspects from controlling the TV set, phone, security system, automatic window shades. All with a gesture.

Excersize games/videos can take on a whole new dimension with interactive feedback. Heck games themselves can become a workout instead of a thumb bruise.

Now what if this technology is also converted to your PC, Your Car, or imagine a buisness that can react to customer motion! Think about a business that can start profiling body posture. I can think of a few car dealerships that would pay heavy for that.

I grant you that this is still in the future, but the first mouse was nothing more than a block of wood with a .15 cent button drilled into the top.

Wii broke the ground, now comes the assault of the new technology. I wont just stop at gaming.

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