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The Inside Story of Microsoft's 'Project Natal'

CmdrTaco posted about 4 years ago | from the dance-for-your-joy dept.

XBox (Games) 130

Lanxon writes "Wired has published a lengthy behind-the-scenes feature documenting the inception, development and technological struggles of Microsoft's Project Natal, now known as Kinect. The feature is the result of conversations the magazine had with a number of key developers and researchers behind the project, and unprecedented access to Microsoft Research in a number of countries, over the course of three years."

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Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1, Interesting)

Pojut (1027544) | about 4 years ago | (#33825884)

What's the likelihood that they will recoup enough money to have made this worthwhile? Microsoft has put a HUGE amount of money and effort behind development & advertising for Natal/Kinect...but how many people are really going to buy it?

Look at the Playstation Move...a huge amount of promotion and hype leading up to its release, and then barely a peep about it after hitting the streets. The same thing will likely happen with Kinect. If it really does retail for $150 as has been widely reported, then it will pretty much be DOA.

How can they expect to sell what amounts to a novelty for half the cost of the entire console?

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

Pojut (1027544) | about 4 years ago | (#33825924)

Please note that I'm not criticizing the technology...I'm criticizing what Microsoft is deciding to do with it at the moment.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33826000)

I'd like to see this tech used for some kind of training purposes. Personally, I think it would be kind of neat to learn martial arts moves with this and then use them in game combat.
"I know Kung fu!"
"Show me."

Come on, it could be cool!

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33826004)

Actually most projects in Microsoft Research never come close to making any money, they are just meant to be feeder projects for future products. The fact that this one came to market so quickly is really unique.

Most people forget how much money some of the big companies like Microsoft and IBM put into pure research efforts (i.e. no immediate plan for a ROI)

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

KillaGouge (973562) | about 4 years ago | (#33826050)

Aren't there still pretty hefty tax cuts for R&D?

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (2, Interesting)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | about 4 years ago | (#33826338)

Most people forget how much money some of the big companies like Microsoft and IBM put into pure research efforts (i.e. no immediate plan for a ROI)

Forget? Is there anything to really forget? Back in the day, IBM did quite a bit of pure research and now, occasionally you'll see something about them writing "IBM" with atoms or making a computer that's really fast but nothing like the research they did.

BTW, nothing will ever beat AT&T Bell Labs - especially for the pure research they did back when they existed - all that's gone now.

Basically, a guy like William Shockley wouldn't have a chance in this day and age.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (0, Offtopic)

bberens (965711) | about 4 years ago | (#33826546)

Some of this I think is just timing. With respect to the timeline of human existence we've made some really historic, revolutionary discoveries/innovations in the last 50 years. The revolutionary discoveries have waned and now we're continuing with evolutionary progress. This is easily seen in computers and cell phones that keep just getting smaller and faster but lack really amazing new things. Having them at all was revolutionary, now we're incrementally improving upon them. IMO the industrial revolution is largely over. The past 50 years are the exception rather than the rule. Will we have another technological renaissance? Probably, but we need to figure out how to use all the stuff we've already invented/discovered first.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33826818)

Tell me - do you actually think that half the stuff that is developed in IBM's R&D are ever heard about beyond the US military Black Budget? Come on - we all know that IBM/Microsoft/Whatever else is not spending this amount of money with nothing in mind... and their sales that we know about don't always match their income...

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | about 4 years ago | (#33828850)

If a company spends $1billion on R&D that money is still gone, if it's taxed or not. It's not like you make money from taxes by spending it on R&D.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (2, Funny)

mSparks43 (757109) | about 4 years ago | (#33826160)

They should get Carol Vorderman to do the advert. "Now you can consolidate all your super sucky controllers into one, easy, Mega sucky interface"

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33826186)

Please note that I'm not criticizing the technology...I'm criticizing what Microsoft is deciding to do with it at the moment.

I think M$ saved a shit ton of future moneys by engineering a Wii-mote like controller for the by-far-better-than-Wii-console hardware. A better question would be, how much money did Nintendo save by not engineering a powerhouse console?

I don't believe the Wii is much more powerful than the GameCube, which itself IMHO was not much more powerful than the N64.

Perhaps M$ can squeeze 2-3 more years of software out of the Xbox360 platform by simply adding new controls, much like what Nintendo has done.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33827254)

This controller...is not wii-mote like at all.

Don't think the Wii hardward is better either. What's better about the Wii isn't the hardware.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 4 years ago | (#33827464)

I don't believe the Wii is much more powerful than the GameCube, which itself IMHO was not much more powerful than the N64.

Thus proving you safe to ignore.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33827654)

I don't believe the Wii is much more powerful than the GameCube

It has the same CPU and GPU hardware running at precisely 1.5x the clock rate of the GameCube. 2x the RAM. No need to believe, the exact numbers are out there for anyone to see.

You Should Be Criticizing The Shoddy Tech (5, Interesting)

RingBus (1912660) | about 4 years ago | (#33827224)

Microsoft was caught faking their demos for their Eye Toy style motion controls for the past two E3s.

And first had reports constantly talk of horrible lag between arm movements and response.

You can't play games while sitting down.

You need to have a relatively large area completely clear in whatever room you are using it in.

There are lighting issues that cause the system to have trouble recognizing motion.

There are clothing issues that cause the system to have trouble recognizing motion.

It doesn't recognize fine motions like finger actions.

It only supports two players.

It should be obvious why Microsoft was forced to fake their demos and so far there has been almost zero real world demos outside of carefully controlled showings with people Microsoft is certain are going to hype the product.

Not that any of that really matters. There isn't any game even remotely interesting or fun that Microsoft has show for the system. When Nintendo showed off the Wii they were confident enough to let everyone at the very first E3 where it was shown play it and had games that both gamers and non-gamers really wanted to play.

Most likely the only people who will end up buying this shoddy tech from Microsoft are the same ones who jumped on the dead HD-DVD format.

Re:You Should Be Criticizing The Shoddy Tech (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33827344)

Having played a demo of about 5 games I can say that it works just as shown. I only played bowling, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, Kinectimals, Kinect Adventures and Joy Ride. I watched Dance Central, which people seemed to really like but I didn't try it myself. I saw dozens of people play with various clothing and lighting, there were many stations set up with only the lighting already in the room, nothing special for the demo units. I didn't see any issues. I get that you hate it and MS, but if you haven't even tried it yourself it seems rather silly to throw a hissy fit about it. MS makes plenty of bad products, but this one works as advertised, even if the game lineup isn't to your liking.

Re:You Should Be Criticizing The Shoddy Tech (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33827546)

Let me guess...

You also sat around forums writing about how your Xbox 360 never ever died from the RRoD, or scratched your discs, or destroyed your discs, or sounded like a jet engine.

Time and time again when real people who aren't trying to or being paid to hype Microsoft's motion controls all say the same two things:

1. Lag. Lots of lag between when you move your arms and when the system registers those movements

2. Lack of precision. It only recognizes your most basic movements.

Which of course would explain why they had to resort to faking and pre-scripting their E3 showings for the past two years. And why there is so little footage of real people playing games with the system or even out in public.

The system is junk. Nintendo and Sony passed on this crappy motion control system. Should be obvious to everyone why they wanted nothing to do with this shitty tech Microsoft is now trying to hype.

Re:You Should Be Criticizing The Shoddy Tech (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33827922)

Thank you so much. The epic amounts of astroturf around here is purely ridiculous. Dear multibillion dollar corporations: if your product sucks, fix it! Don't go around planting shills on forums like Slashdot, Digg, Engadget, Techcrunch, et al. People see through that shit and it makes you look pathetic.

Re:You Should Be Criticizing The Shoddy Tech (3, Funny)

Thud457 (234763) | about 4 years ago | (#33829312)

Dear multibillion dollar corporations: with today's abysmal economy, I'd sure like to get in on some of that lush gelt. Normally, I troll for the lulz, but I'll be more than happy to shill for the $$$$<--(that's four monies, there...)

Re:You Should Be Criticizing The Shoddy Tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33830794)

I actually thought you were going for ironic comedy. Damn shame you got modded down for it.

Re:You Should Be Criticizing The Shoddy Tech (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33830062)

I don't own an xbox, I never will, I'm not a console guy. I did get to use a Kinect though, a friend had one set up at a party. It was pretty fun, everyone seemed to enjoy it. I did notice some minor lag. The worst was this one game where you ride this cart on rails and have to move to dodge stuff, but for the most part it seemed like when you are actually playing you don't notice the lag. Or you sort of do at first, but then your body movements synch up with it. Overall I was very impressed by how well the system worked, I think it's likely to be very popular.
I also predict:
1) MS is going to get sued constantly because of it, I saw a few near injuries as people flailed and jumped around next to each other.
2) If you live below someone who has one you will probably go crazy
3) Gamers will lose a lot of weight. Seriously, it's a workout

No other option than to pedal this junk for MS (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33827376)

What was Microsoft going to do?

They had been in the console market for 8 years and have gotten nowhere. Some 7 or 8 billion in losses - much higher if you calculate how many other products in Microsoft's E&D division have been hiding the true Xbox generated losses. They have no hardware design and manufacturing capabilities to be able to compete with Sony. They have a joke internal game development studio array - only 3 or so first party studios compared to Sony's gigantic 21 or so and Nintendo with 10.

The 360 is dead in Asia just like the first Xbox. The 360 is dead all across Europe outside of the UK just like the first Xbox. No one at Microsoft is any mood to let the idiots running the Xbox project have a few more billion to make new Xbox hardware with Baller's Google obsession blowing through billions every year and Microsoft's stock price completely dead in the water.

So they bought a company with old PS2 Eye Toy style motion recognition hardware and slapped it on the old defective 360 hardware. Better than just killing the Xbox disaster outright. They might be able to milk another year of so 60 dollar a year online fees out of the suckers paying for it now. Won't come close to paying for the billions Microsoft wasted on the Xbox disaster, but its better than nothing.

Time for Microsoft to turn their attention to the fucked up and dying PC games market. The large number of big name PC game developers supporting the Mac while they fuck around with the piece of shit Xbox 360 has to be sending off alarms for the people who do actually make a successful product at Microsoft, their OS software. If you can start to play most major games on Macs I could easily see OS X jumping into the 20-30 percent range in marketshare.

Re:You Should Be Criticizing The Shoddy Tech (4, Informative)

cbhacking (979169) | about 4 years ago | (#33830078)

I take it you didn't get to PAX this year... lots of Kinect demos (both by MS and by third-party developers). They all worked pretty well. Some had huge lines of people waiting to play. They all had people watching. Everybody walking away afterward looked excited.

Don't get me wrong, Kinect is far from perfect and the cost is substantial, but the system most assuredly works and people are hyped for the games.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (2, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#33826034)

Exactly, just about every single console has tried to do what Kinect is trying to do.

The Dreamcast had the Dreameye

The PS2 had the EyeToy

The PS3 has the PlayStation Eye

Even the 360 has the Xbox Live Vision


All of them failed to change gaming as we know it. Yeah, the EyeToy had a few games that made use of it, yeah, they were fun in a weird way but they were just tech demos.

We've been trying the camera + console combo for a decade and none of them have really changed gaming... at all. Perhaps Kinect will change that, but chances are, its just hype. I mean, has anyone ever -used- Kinect except for a few people? Plus, attempts to "revitalize" a console midway through its lifespan have historically failed, the only "success" would be the expansion pack for the N64 the rest (SegaCD, Sega 32x, etc.) have all spectacularly failed.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | about 4 years ago | (#33826240)

At least Sony is reusing components; The PlayStation Eye is one of two required* pieces in the Sony Move system.

Plus, attempts to "revitalize" a console midway through its lifespan have historically failed, the only "success" would be the expansion pack for the N64 the rest (SegaCD, Sega 32x, etc.) have all spectacularly failed.

I can only think of 3 games that used the N64 memory expansion: Donkey Kong 64, Perfect Dark, and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.

Having said that, there are other things I can think of that revitalized a console partway through its lifespan, such as the PlayStation 1's DualShock controller. However, that was because it shipped with every new PS from 1998 until Sony stopped selling the system (which was sometime after the PS2 launch in 2000).

* Only the PS Eye and Move Wand are required; the Move Navigation controller is optional.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

walshy007 (906710) | about 4 years ago | (#33826420)

Gauntlet legends required it if you wanted more than one player, it used the extra ram for the extra enemies etc.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#33826422)

I can only think of 3 games that used the N64 memory expansion: Donkey Kong 64, Perfect Dark, and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.

Yeah, that and StarCraft 64 were the only 4 games which required the expansion pack, however, when most people compile lists of what were considered to be the "best" N64 games, usually Perfect Dark or Majora's Mask makes it close to or the top game, so I'd consider that a success when compared to things like the 32x (can anyone even think of a 32x game without Googling a list of them? And even then how many of them were considered "classics" like Perfect Dark or Majora's Mask is considered today? My guess is none of them) and the like.

And yes, I wasn't really even thinking about the PS1 (by the time I got a PlayStation I figured that the Dual-Shock controllers were the standard since the beginning) but that did help the PS1.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | about 4 years ago | (#33827016)

can anyone even think of a 32x game without Googling a list of them

Yes, specifically Knuckles Chaotix and Doom 32x... although the latter is really easy to remember.

And even then how many of them were considered "classics" like Perfect Dark or Majora's Mask is considered today?

The 32x didn't have classics, but there are some addons that did have classics.

Sonic CD for the Sega CD is considered a classic, and has spawned both a PC version, and Gamecube and PS2 re-releases (as part of Sonic Gems; Sonic CD was widely considered the reason to get Sonic Gems).

The Turbo-Grafx 16 CD addon had both what is considered the best release of Ys so far in North America (Ys Eternal for PC in Japan in better) and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, which is considered by many to be a classic Castlevania game, despite not being released in North America for the first time until 2007.

The game was remade as part of Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP and had a re-release on the Wii Virtual Console as Castlevania: Rondo of Blood.

And yes, I wasn't really even thinking about the PS1 (by the time I got a PlayStation I figured that the Dual-Shock controllers were the standard since the beginning) but that did help the PS1.

It was... interesting when you picked up a game that didn't have DualShock support, and you had to turn off the analog feature on the control pad. For example, neither Megaman Legends (the first, that is) or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night had DualShock support.

Here's a bit of unrelated trivia: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a direct sequel to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. I wouldn't have even thought of Rondo of Blood for the previous entry had I not used SotN as an example here.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

powerlord (28156) | about 4 years ago | (#33826614)

Personally I think Sony certainly seems committed to "doing it all".

Between "Kung Fu Live!", which seems comparable to Kinect does, requiring only the PS Eye. http://www.kungfulivegame.com/ [kungfulivegame.com] , the PS Move system, which seems to replicate what the Wii Motion+ can do, and the traditional PS controllers, there are loads of choices for interactive controls, and, there is the ability for supporting Multiple methods of control, so a developer doesn't need to fully commit to one method (which is a good thing to encourage developers to experiment in multiple control schemes).

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33826986)

There are very good reasons that Microsoft isn't reusing their camera for this.

1. Kinect is actually more than one camera - there is a regular camera, an infrared camera, and an infrared transmitter. This gives a depth map of the whole scene which is important to accurate detection and recognition of actual people and shapes, not simply a colored sphere.

2. Kinect has a microphone array, which allows it to pinpoint where sounds are coming from in the room, and in combination with the visual recognition, cancel out sounds that aren't coming from the player or differentiate two players who may even be talking at the same time.

3. Kinect has processing power built in to assist with decoding the incoming data.

4. It also has motors to automatically adjust when players stand up or are different heights.

Kinect lacks accelerometers like the PS Move's wand has (though they could theoretically add a wand of their own in the future if they wanted to). What Kinect is trying to do is much more ambitious than what the Wii or PS Move (which is essentially a video augmented versoin of the Wii) are doing. However, they are being spun as similar, because people want to be able to compare.

Whether or not Microsoft's ambitious bet leads to better games or not, on the other hand, is up in the air. Virtual Boy was ambitious, but not really successful.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (2, Insightful)

PaladinAlpha (645879) | about 4 years ago | (#33829646)

Sorry. Much falseness here.

First of all, the on-board processor was dropped. Kinect places its entire processing load on the 360 (putting a 10-15 % load on the CPU).

Second, the "regular camera" in it runs at 640x480 30Hz, which is bad enough, but the infrared projector runs at 320x240, which is abysmal and the reason the device cannot detect things like finger movements.

The device is not ambitious at all; it's old tech. We've been doing depthmaps from two image sources for about as long as we've had cameras. The fact that Microsoft has made several cuts in hardware and functionality and is still pricing the device at $150 is disheartening, although not surprising given their pricing on things like proprietary hard drives.

Basically, it's overpriced junk that could be not just matched but beaten on any computer or on the PS3 by two webcams, two microphones, and a 5k program (total cost: $60). I would applaud them for pushing development of userspace control, but what's far more likely to happen is this thing is going to bomb hard enough to scare investors away for the next thirty years. They are actually hurting the market.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about 4 years ago | (#33826072)

Barely a peep in the media doesn't mean people aren't intrigued. I'm personally very interested in Playstation Move and am seriously considering picking it up for the holidays. If I owned an Xbox360 I'd be considering their option. Judging from what I've seen, and my experience with the Wii, it looks like it could be a lot of fun. And isn't that really all that matters?

This isn't something that's going to pay off overnight. It's something that needs to be built on. I won't go so far as to suggest that it's the future of gaming, because that's absurd. But certainly, we're looking at the beginnings of a very significant genre of gaming. It would have been a massive mistake if Microsoft hadn't developed Kinect.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 4 years ago | (#33826946)

Just hope they build better on it than they did with the Wii. The initial Wii Sports idea (and the spin offs sports ressort and wii fit) is great! But there is hardly any other game making use of motions like those few. (Not counting those mini-games as Raving Rabbits)

Samba di Amigo is the (very) notable exception.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

MarkRose (820682) | about 4 years ago | (#33826084)

Just give it some time. It takes a while for natal technology to be borne out.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

wowbagger (69688) | about 4 years ago | (#33827264)

"Just give it some time. It takes a while for natal technology to be borne out."

About 9 months from inceptions to first article test.

But it usually takes about 18 years to start earning its keep. Sometimes longer.

(I don't think many other people got your joke....)

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (2, Informative)

1000101 (584896) | about 4 years ago | (#33826268)

My son will be 6 years old tomorrow. This is the first thing I'm getting him for Christmas. We don't own a Wii, and this looks more fun anyway. I'm just one person of course, but I'm sure there are plenty of people out there in the same situation as myself.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (2, Funny)

cjcela (1539859) | about 4 years ago | (#33826388)

Make your son a favor, and give him something to play outside instead of a gadget.

Maybe you can get the Kinect thing for yourself, as well...

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

Mongoose Disciple (722373) | about 4 years ago | (#33826594)

I don't know where you live, but if my kids play outside around Christmas, they may literally freeze to death. :)

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

AltairDusk (1757788) | about 4 years ago | (#33828272)

I'd say get them the Kinect but don't forget to kick them out of the house to go sledding and build snowmen once in awhile too. They'll come in before they freeze, the thought of hot chocolate starts getting real tempting as you get colder. :)

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

1000101 (584896) | about 4 years ago | (#33827380)

He plays baseball in the Spring and Fall, will be starting football next year, we love building things from Backyard Ballistics [amazon.com] (yes, I'm very safe with everything), he swims in the summer at the neighborhood pool, etc., etc. School -> Homework -> Extending Reading -> And then if there is time for a quick game, he's allowed to play. He has more freedom for games on the weekends.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 years ago | (#33830856)

But if you get him a gadget, he'll be ruined~

On a more serious note-I'm going to have to pick up that book for my kids. Looks cool.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

Pojut (1027544) | about 4 years ago | (#33826432)

If you want to buy him something gaming-related, get him an NES or an Atari 2600 and a crapton of games for the same amount of money.

Just like my parents made sure to expose me to classic rock from the 60's and 70's, I'm going to make sure I expose my kid to the earlier days of console gaming.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | about 4 years ago | (#33827842)

My parents didn't expose me to the Atari 2600 until after Star Wars came out. Why did they make me wait so long?!!!

People will buy it (1)

JeremyGNJ (1102465) | about 4 years ago | (#33826468)

Because people wont look at it as "the price of half a console" they will look at it as "the price of 2 1/2 games". People spent $150 a month on TV + Internet, they will have no problem spending that on their kids for christmas in order to place something that isnt "run around and blow up other kids".

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33826736)

You'll say different after you've used it. The Playstation Move was a flop because it replicated something that already existed and didn't improve it near as enough as it should have. You could argue that there is the Playstation Eyetoy, but what you wouldn't be understanding is that that comparison would be like an iPad being compared to a tablet ten years ago, or a modern wireless controller to a third party wireless Nintendo accessory in the 80s. You won't "get" how much more advanced this is until it has hit the shelves. Once you see teenage girls stop using DDR pads to dance, or children talking about their Kinectimal, maybe you'll get it then.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

Pojut (1027544) | about 4 years ago | (#33826958)

Again, I'm not questioning the technology, just what they are doing with it. If I want to be active, I'll go outside; I play video games to be lazy.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33827590)

$150 for the entire setup for Kinect, regardless of player numbers vs $100 for the starter bundle for move, $30 for the nav controller, $50 for another move controller (some games recommend 2 per person). I think a total cost of $150 is pretty damn good. It's actually cheaper than 3 additional wii motion plus remotes + nunchuk ($210 retail which is $10 more than a console). I actually think I'll be getting the kinect before the move for this reason, a starter kit with enough controllers for 2 player was going to cost me $240 (with a charge station).

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

sheehaje (240093) | about 4 years ago | (#33827960)

Loss for Microsoft?

I don't know. First, I know many dual PS3/XBOX360 users that didn't by Move because they are waiting for Kinect ...

Secondly, how many patents is Microsoft Gaining by developing this technology. Like it or not, those are worth more than their weight in gold.

Finally, this is technology they we reuse over and over again, so even if the original product doesn't take off, the research costs can still pay off moving forward.

R&D is usually a long term investment.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (1)

superstick58 (809423) | about 4 years ago | (#33828258)

You assume microsoft wants to recoup the cost on this generation of console release. Sounds like this is a good way to debut a new technology such that it can be refined and improved for the next generation console. 360 is already 5yrs old. The next iteration is due

Consumers are paying to beta test a technology that will really hit the big time in the next console generation.

Re:Waste of R&D dollars, if you ask me (3, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | about 4 years ago | (#33828922)

To be fair, I think things like Move and Kinect are really just ramping up for the next generation of console equipment that will have this stuff as standard. I doubt they're counting on doing anymore than breaking even, if that for now. Getting developers onboard and used to the tech so that they could really push it next gen is probably a good thing too- look how many 3rd party developers really struggled to take advantage of the Wii, most stuff that's been churned out since release has been utter crap, and it's taken a while to get some good 3rd party stuff out there.

There was a story some weeks ago about how Natal could previously even read sign language, and detect finger gestures, but to make the equipment fit in the $150 price range they switched to a lower resolution IR camera. I'd imagine they'll put the higher resolution back in for the next gen console so FPS players can issue commands with hand gestures and that sort of thing, which they could've done this time if they'd made Natal prohibitively more expensive. I guess the technology is too new and expensive to really push it to it's limits right now, but by the time the XBox 720 or whatever comes out it may not be.

I'm also not sure at least in the case of Natal (I don't know about Move) that the R&D will be wasted even if it flops in gaming. I'd imagine hands free interfaces are something Microsoft is hoping to capitalise on elsewhere in the future. It's like things like multi-touch and gesture recognition, it's not new, but it's really come into it's own in recent years finding it's way on mobile devices and becoming a must have feature. It may be that Natal wiill find it's niche in for example TVs, to provide hands free control of them or something like that.

A lot of hype... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 4 years ago | (#33825892)

There is a lot of hype around "Project Natal"/Kinect but, outside of Microsoft and a few high-ranking members of the press has anyone ever actually -used- one of them?

I mean, what happens when this turns out to be the 360's version of the "Eye Toy" for the PS2?

Re:A lot of hype... (1)

negRo_slim (636783) | about 4 years ago | (#33826058)

Xbox's version of the "Eye Toy" is actually the "Xbox Live Vision" [wikipedia.org] .

Re:A lot of hype... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33826096)

I got to play with one at the Minnesota State Fair for a few minutes. It still is a little awkward but IMHO still a lot better(smoother and better sensitivity) than the Wii (although I only tried the original Wii controller, I think there is an updated one that was improved).

there are demos in some stores right now (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | about 4 years ago | (#33826116)

Macy's I think? Ordinary people can try it.

By all accounts, yes, it is 360's EyeToy. You've got the same kind of games, with a little better control and better graphics.

Re:A lot of hype... (2, Informative)

hoshino (790390) | about 4 years ago | (#33826236)

The Eye Toy for PS2 is actually one of the most successful console accessories ever, selling 10.5 million units worldwide despite a slow start. Apparently it was actually novel and useful enough for its time to generate grassroot interest. The failure you are looking for is The Eye for PS3.

Re:A lot of hype... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 4 years ago | (#33826716)

Apparently it was actually novel and useful enough for its time to generate grassroot interest

Indeed. Real testament to the marketing geniuses at sony: I never once saw a commercial for the eye toy. There was only one eye toy shipped to the gamestop I was working at. Before guitar hero though, that was the only console accessory I heard anyone talk about.

Re:A lot of hype... (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | about 4 years ago | (#33826842)

One of the reasons is that the external hardware required was just a repackaged webcam. So they offered it with both of there flagship eyetoy games ( 'eye play' and 'eye play 2') for the normal cost of the game. The tech to develop it was trivial even though it was novel. They just took a diff of successive frames. This method is cheap and it simple but not without problems. Lighting and backround matters, I had to basically put a light pointing at me if I wanted the game not to make mistakes and miss my hand movements.

Re:A lot of hype... (1)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | about 4 years ago | (#33826272)

Yes, my friend teaches graphics/game design at a community college and they got to try one out and play with. He said he was pretty impressed by it. He's a fairly new teacher and it's a community college so it's not like they're keeping the things under lock and key only giving access to "high-ranking" press members as you insinuate.

Re:A lot of hype... (3, Informative)

riskeetee (1039912) | about 4 years ago | (#33826966)

Yes. A friend (who works at MS) has a demo unit. This blows away the Nintendo Balance Board, because you can actually JUMP! It's better than the Sony Move, because you don't need a stupid looking controller to play it. It's very accurate at reading your motions in a 3d space. Microsoft has a winner on their hands with the hardware. If they can get some good titles behind this, it's going to be awesome.

3rd try's a charm? Kinect: The 3rd Wiimote killer (2, Insightful)

pizzach (1011925) | about 4 years ago | (#33827526)

I hate to sound cynical, but this will only be the 3rd Wiimote killer since the 6-axis took it's aim. With all of Kinect's extra features over the de facto, it should fit really nicely next to all of the iPod-killers of yor.

The Kinect is the Firewire of the Firewire-USB war. Overly expensive and unsupported compared to it's contemporary cousin even if it may have better technology. It only takes a (USB2-style) revision to make the things Kinect has moot and the populace moves on...

Re:3rd try's a charm? Kinect: The 3rd Wiimote kill (1)

riskeetee (1039912) | about 4 years ago | (#33829598)

You're right, this isn't a Wiimote killer. The Sony Move is an attempt at a Wiimote killer. This is more like the Wiimote + Balance Board (which I own).

Having used the Balance Board, it's got major limitations. There are games which want to you "jump" on the Wii (Snowboarding), but if you actually jump, the game freezes and displays a warning: Do not jump on the balance board. Major gameplay killer.

Kinect sees your entire body and can handle jumping, moving, and more, without a controller. Start a game by moving your hand over the on-screen button. This will be awesome for casual and party gaming, since nobody's controller will be out of batteries.

This isn't a Wiimote killer, it's a game-changer. Microsoft has a hit with this one. Until Sony's mind-reading controller comes out, that is...

Re:A lot of hype... (1)

cbhacking (979169) | about 4 years ago | (#33830112)

There were quite a few of them at PAX, and they were a lot of fun. There are some (live try-it-out demo stations) at big electronics stores around here. It's real tech and people want it. The only thing harder to do that see over the ring of people watching is wait in line long enough for a chance to play.

deh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33825904)

It`s just a cheap copy of an already existing inventions sold for 3 times the prices it cost to make.

Wow! All that? (-1, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 4 years ago | (#33825926)

Have they added enough padding to the conference room walls? When Ballmer finds out the terrible ROI on this crap, there will be an epic chair throwing incident.

Re:Wow! All that? (1)

wowbagger (69688) | about 4 years ago | (#33826198)

"Have they added enough padding to the conference room walls? When Ballmer finds out the terrible ROI on this crap, there will be an epic chair throwing incident."

And if the developers have the hardware in the room, tracking Ballmer, it would serve as a great field test of the device.

Re:Wow! All that? (1)

Spatial (1235392) | about 4 years ago | (#33826470)

Kinect has no mouth, but it must scream.

Re:Wow! All that? (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | about 4 years ago | (#33826644)

Man, that so made me lol!

Holodeck (1)

us7892 (655683) | about 4 years ago | (#33825972)

This article mentions the Star Trek Holodeck, somewhere on page 1. Then, with that on my mind, the rest of the article didn't live up. Now I expect a holodeck. Nothing less.

Re:Holodeck (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 years ago | (#33826746)

Good news then! You are currently in a holodeck, sadly it(rather expectedly) went wrong and now you don't realize you are on the Enterprise. Forever you will be stuck thinking you live in the stupid age.

Well, I'm going to go bang a green alien chick now, sucks to be you.

Re:Holodeck (1)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | about 4 years ago | (#33830106)

It's a holodeck that provides accurate recreations of early 21st century living rooms. Marvel at the crazy things people had back then, such as non-CFL light bulbs and indoor toilets.

who reads this crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33826040)

"There was just one problem: this hadn’t yet been done anywhere in the world."
welcome to wired, written by 13yrolds.

Re:who reads this crap (1)

Spatial (1235392) | about 4 years ago | (#33826444)

It reminds me of drama-documentary writing. If you removed all the breathless amazement and hyperbole the article would be reduced to one-tenth of its original size.

Since I'm busy procrastinating, I made the article as boring and uninformative as possible:

With Kinect, Microsoft plans to improve how we interact with consoles. But first they had to solve a few problems.

'Kinect', Microsoft’s new motion-sensing system for the Xbox 360, does away with the game controller in favour of the player’s own body. It can track your body in real time, recognise who in the room is playing and respond to voice commands. Its creators call it a "natural user interface" or NUI.

Reliably decoding human movements and voices is quite difficult. But they managed it in the end.

The Xbox team contracted PrimeSense to provide Kinect’s depth sensor chip and reference design. Impressed with the depth-sensing capability, a small team quickly prototyped around 70 minigames. The possibilities quickly became clear, impressing executives.

Kinect Sports is currently undergoing playtesting in Warwickshire.

Thats why they changed the name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33826042)

"inception.... Project Natal"

heh heh heh

So... (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 4 years ago | (#33826164)

Without reading the stupid article, which company did they end up buying out for this product?

This is just step one. (1)

Higaran (835598) | about 4 years ago | (#33826248)

If you had enough cash, I'm sure you could make a basic holodeck, you just need a room, and 5, 3d tv's big enough to cover the entire walls and celing and a kinect to use as a controller and krap load of pc, to do all the rendering. Like I said this kinect thing is just the first step to a holodeck type thing. Some companies have alrady said they are going to sell 3d tv's that don't need those damn glasses, so it's just a matter of time before all of the tech can be scaled down.

Re:This is just step one. (1)

wjousts (1529427) | about 4 years ago | (#33826368)

You also need a multi-directional moving floor too. Otherwise you'll keep walking in to the TV screens.

Nintendo did it first? (1)

Ruud Althuizen (835426) | about 4 years ago | (#33826260)

Funny how there isn't a single occurrence of the words Wii or Nintendo in that interview.

Re:Nintendo did it first? (1)

KillaBeave (1037250) | about 4 years ago | (#33826380)

Funny how it's on the last page ... Is there an ARTWFA standing for "Almost RT Whole FA" :P

Re:Nintendo did it first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33829000)

Though I read the whole thing, I had the same reaction until the last page -- how could they possibly drone on for 4 pages about the motivation and design of Natal without mentioning the Wii.

The article's implication that a bunch of Microsoft engineers were just sitting around drinking lattes and decided to revolutionize gaming controllers one rainy day in 2007 is disingenuous at best.

Re:Nintendo did it first? (1)

Ruud Althuizen (835426) | about 4 years ago | (#33830212)

Ah, forgot to search each page for Wii as well.

“History is about to be rewritten"?? (5, Insightful)

esaulgd (1754886) | about 4 years ago | (#33826280)

From TFA:
“Since the dawn of time, humanity’s long journey has led us to countless discoveries, Yet with each leap forward for civilisation, more people have been left behind. But our quest has taken us to a completely new horizon. History is about to be rewritten. This time human beings will be at the centre -- and the machines will be the ones that adapt. After five million years of evolution, is it possible that the future of humanity is humanity itself?”

That the article repeats verbatim such a quote from Microsoft's presentation without even a slight nod to the gross self-aggrandization clued me to the fact that the whole piece is yet another corporate advertisement disguised as news.

I mean, in addition to the whole story starting with an emergency meeting on mid 2007 about the need to "reimagine a new direction for the Xbox" yet failing to point out it was all due to the runaway success of the Wii. It actually sticks out like a sore thumb to see these VPs panicking about something that the article refuses to acknowledge exists.

Re:“History is about to be rewritten"?? (1)

RazorSharp (1418697) | about 4 years ago | (#33830680)

Well, they mentioned the Wii once at the end of the article:

Over Christmas 2008, they narrowed their focus on three ideas, sport being one. “We wanted to compete head-on with Wii Sports,” Andreas admits. “We knew we could do so much more with Kinect than you could with Wii.”

Because the launch titles were aimed at the family market, Rare chose the more popular sports. “We put a bowling prototype together in three days: can we significantly improve on Wii Sports’ bowling? Could we allow people to run at the screen with the ball? We realised we could improve on it.

I think that quote is hilarious. They never mention how exactly they improved upon Wii bowling. Personally, I can't see how it could be better because the controller is why Wii bowling feels so intuitive. It gives feedback straight to your hand, both audio and rumble. It may not feel like a bowling ball, but it comes closer to simulating the experience of bowling because there is something to physically connect you with what you're seeing on screen.

I see potential in Kinect but it has less to do with gaming and more to do with XBox Live. It's good for this: http://comics.com/pearls_before_swine/2010-10-05/ [comics.com]

I can also see potential for games that use the regular controller. Like an Elder Scrolls where you play the game normally, but when you talk to people they interact with your more realistically, perhaps recognizing your facial expressions so the character could make a comment like, "Why, you're looking happy today!" (of course, with gamers playing ES, it's more likely to say, "Why, you're looking lethargic and near-comotose!"). It's one of those things that would be best a complimentary input device, like the microphones that were used for Mario Party. If they insist on developing games using Kinect as the only input device, I don't see it going anywhere because it's not more immersive, when you take the physical controller out of one's hand you've further detached them from the game world. This thing might be pretty sweet if they combined it with something like Nintendo or Sony's motion controllers, but they seem pretty determined to do it controller-less.

Re:“History is about to be rewritten"?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33830740)

gross self-aggrandization clued me to the fact that the whole piece is yet another corporate advertisement disguised as news.

I mean, in addition to the whole story starting with an emergency meeting on mid 2007 about the need to "reimagine a new direction for the Xbox"

Particularly, as already March 2008 Google techtalks included a presentation of a similar type of technology already working by the Softkinetic. The video was removed later, apparently. They used the Israeli camera technology as well.

Wii can build it... (1)

digitaldc (879047) | about 4 years ago | (#33826298)

The feature is the result of conversations the magazine had with a number of key developers and researchers behind the project, and unprecedented access to several Wii consoles in the break room.

Re:Wii can build it... (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 4 years ago | (#33827490)

Wouldn't it be nice if the developers were suddenly compelled to tell the actual truth in an interview? It would go something like:

Interviewer: Where did you get the idea for Natal/Kinect?

Don Mattrick: Steve Balmer saw that the Wii was making a shitload of money and told us to copy it. That was the genesis.

Interviewer: Why did you decide to go with the body motion idea?

Don Mattrick: It was a way to rip off the motion control thing without violating any of Nintendo's patents.

Interviewer: So, where will the games for this be going?

Don Mattrick: Wherever the Wii games go, we'll follow.

Interviewer: Are you worried about the competition?

Don Mattrick: Not really, the Wii is going to kick both our's and Sony's asses on motion control. We're just trying to grab some of the crumbs before people realize that our console is five years old now and starting to show its age.

Interviewer: Well...um...thanks for your candid responses.

Don Mattrick: I hate you. I'm going to go get drunk now.

Re:Wii can build it... (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | about 4 years ago | (#33829318)

This has nothing to do with the Wii other than they both detect motion. I know it's fun to think everything is "ripped off", but the way Natal works and the way the Wii work are completely different.

The idea of motion sensing is broad enough that claiming anyone who does it is copying the Wii is more than a bit silly.

If you want to say it's copying something, it's more like a next generation of the Eye Toy.

WOW (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33826326)

This could be the best thing since Spore!!!

I think there's a market for this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33826412)

As they always say, it's going to come down to the games. But for an adult gamer with young children, such as myself, I'm excited at the idea of one machine that can provide the sophisticated, violent, hardcore games I enjoy and also offer games that we can play as a family. We have a Wii now, and my 3 year old is just getting the hang of the most basic games. Eliminate the controller and he'll definitely be able to jump right in and play. Maybe Microsoft won't get this 100% right for the 360, but I'm excited at the prospect that the next generation of gaming systems will offer something for everyone.

Simplified Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33826464)

Microsoft once again says "MEEE TOOOH!!!"

Why Does This Seem Familiar? (2, Insightful)

EXTomar (78739) | about 4 years ago | (#33827050)

Why does Kinect seem familiar? Microsoft saying "It will change the industry" and "Big players are developing it" and "You'll wonder how you ever did anything without it!" and "Everything will change after this". Oh yeah, this is what they said with Windows Mobile 6.

The more reports I get back the more it seems like just with Windows Mobile 6 that marketing is over promising features. That isn't to say Kinect is "snake oil" because of a lot of it does seem to work but that it is rough...."rougher" than they want to let on. So we'll get a big advertising blitz, Microsoft will declare it was a huge success, and then summary die because it is expensive and never quite work as smooth as they advertised while the competition runs wild. All of this is like WinMo6.

Anyhow, there is some merit to the tech but it feels like it is going in the wrong direction. Its like the belief one can effectively replace a keyboard with voice recognition. VR is useful in itself but not as a keyboard replacement! As an HMI issue, gesture controls found on Wii "work" because the interface is simplified not because of waggle. Replacing waggle sticks with Kinect without doing the requisite "simplification" is going to be a disaster. I wish they would abandon schemes like "replacing the controller for games" that are more smoke and mirrors than practical execution. Go with practical stuff like if my console notices I put the controller down to answer the phone, door, kids jump in my lap, or whatever, pause the game. If the console notice I'm no long in front of my TV for an extended period of time, go into hibernate mode. Stuff like this is more useful than trying to figure out how build a fighting game by waving my arms and kicking with my legs.

But in any event, $150us is too much for all of it. If it was built in at the start that would be one thing but it is too late now.

Kinectimals?? (1)

lordDallan (685707) | about 4 years ago | (#33827080)

I'll play Kinectimals in my Garanimals while eating Lunchables with my runcible spoon.

co1cwk (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33827766)

Embarrassing Kinect demo on German TV show (3, Funny)

mick232 (1610795) | about 4 years ago | (#33827804)

Yesterday I watched a TV show on German TV in which they used the Kinect system. It was broadcast on a major channel watched by millions. Two players had to play against each other in a quite unspectacular game. It was embarrassing, both due to the boring gameplay and the technical weaknesses of the system. During the first game, suddenly the split-screen switched to a single screen such that only one player could see his avatar. Nobody knew why and the TV show host quickly reacted and said "well, now you had a training run". After the second run one of the players complained that his moves were not recognized at all. He kept jumping all the time but the cameras obviously did not capture these jumps.

I'd put good money on Kinect bombing (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about 4 years ago | (#33827862)

Seriously, it looks dumb, it apparently doesn't work that well with numerous reports of lag and what not and it's an over priced add-on aimed at Wii owners on a teenage spastic's system. I sense failure and that's why MS is sending out press releases about shortages. They're making less units to reduce to risk and create fake supply issues.

Ballmer has fucked up MS, imo.

There'll be plenty at the used game store. (1)

Pinback (80041) | about 4 years ago | (#33828018)

Sounds like a great thing to pick up on Craigslist for 75% off, when the early adopters figure out it is boring and doesn't work with Madden.

Data point of 1 (2, Interesting)

russryan (981552) | about 4 years ago | (#33829126)

I was in Best Buy last weekend and they were demonstrating the Kinect. My 9 year old daughter, who doesn't like to play console based video games, started playing one of the demos. It was sort of like Breakout, but you kicked or punched the balls instead of using a remote. I had a hard time getting her to leave.

Kinect Will Win In Some Markets (1)

Jaborandy (96182) | about 4 years ago | (#33830076)

Did any of you see the demo of "Dance Central" at E3 this year? It was amazing! Dance Dance Revolution has sold millions; the dance and excercise market for video game consoles is not small. No other console can compete with the ability to simultaneously track arms, legs, head, and body for use in a dance or exercise game. I'm convinced that once this is out there and you can try it at your friend's house or the store, you'll see that all other dance and exercise games are obsolete. The full body immersive experience you can get with Kinect is far superior to anything you can get with a dance pad or handheld wands.

From the demos I've seen, I'm convinced that this will sell really well in the dance, exercise, and sports genres. Microsoft also hopes to bring non-gamers into the fold with this release, and I have no idea how well it will do on that front. But the technology is a nice leap forward. I look forward to seeing what MS and other game developers can do with it.

microsoft marketing non-sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33830376)

microsoft marketing non-sense to talk a failure right, this products stinks and will stink even more in the future when it's out...

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