“Project Natal” has got an official rebranding as Kinect. This highly anticipated motion controller from Microsoft allows you to play games simply by moving your body. This is similar to what you can do on the Wii or with the Playstation Move, except on a completely different level. You don’t have to actually hold anything. Your movements are tracked by a camera and translated into movement within the game.
The official announcement came at Microsoft’s pre-E3 event today, but it seems many couldn’t seem to keep Kinect under wraps until then. For instance, USA Today posted an article with details on Kinect and pulled it shortly thereafter. It was later confirmed on twitter by Xbox employee Major Nelson. The official announcement included demos that highlight a few key features. What we are not sure about is how much this thing will cost or when it will be available, although there are rumors about a November release.
According to Engadget, there are some limitations for multi-player games. You still have to take turns. This is true even for games like track and field where you are running and jumping over hurdles against your opponent. This seems odd because a demo video shows a family racing head-to-head on a split screen. An interesting point here is that you don’t have to press a bunch of buttons to add people to a game, then can literally jump in. Of course, you can also play multi-player games via Xbox Live.
Another interested display of the technology is in the Yoga game. It can tell you whether you’re doing the movements properly by tracking the motion and position of your joints. Not only will this make sure you’re doing the moves properly, but it could also be used to make sure you aren’t slacking off. Everyone doing Wii Fit and not losing any weight could benefit from this feature alone.
Kinectimals is a baby tiger pet simulator. You can virtually pet and cuddle with your very own baby tiger. You can also teach him tricks. Probably not something I would get into, but I’m sure it will become wildly popular. I hear the tiger is really cute.
Kinect also includes video chat which lets you talk to up to four people and also share photos. Probably more interesting for the geeks out there is the interface for video chat, which is based entirely on gestures of your hands. That elusive Minority Report-style interface is now a reality, but we still don’t know exactly what you will be able to control with it beyond video chat.
Microsoft has also announced the new Xbox 360. Not only does it look absolutely stunning in black, but it’s much smaller in size, has a 250GB harddrive, and built-in wireless connectivity. This comes at a price tag of $299 and could be available in stores as early as tomorrow. Your new Xbox will match your Kinect device perfectly. I suspect that Microsoft is going to sell a ridiculous amount of these.