Hope you can do a high kick.
June 4, 2009 10:09 PM   Subscribe

Drive a race car, beat someone up, and try on a dress - all from your living room and without any controllers. Microsoft's new "Natal". [video]

At this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo Sony announced its new advanced motion sensing controller for the PS3 in an attempt to move in on and improve features that Nintendo has used with the Wii to establish a hefty lead in gaming console sales. Nintendo had the same idea. However, Microsoft takes it to the next level with the Natal, and according to one source, it actually works. Some predictions for the future.
posted by Defenestrator (84 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Be sure to check out Project Natal's Milo (Virtual Human Interaction) with Claire IRL.
posted by ericb at 10:15 PM on June 4, 2009


Wow, that racing game where you make a pretend steering wheel with your hands and can actually switch out the tires in the pit looks like ... the worst game ever.
posted by mrnutty at 10:21 PM on June 4, 2009 [11 favorites]


I love the Project Natal. It's so bad!
posted by flatluigi at 10:24 PM on June 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


I like how the reviewers give this a conditional review: "If it works as advertised, this is amazing!"
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:24 PM on June 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Looks like Peter Molyneux can still wildly overpromise with the best of them.
posted by verb at 10:30 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Project Natal shocked me when I saw some videos covering it the other day-- first, the technology really is remarkable (at least in terms of a first step), and second, the commercials are execrable. You'd need motion-capture to accurately portray just how bad the commercials are-- honestly, they look like high school Drivers' Ed flicks.

At any rate, give this a few years, add in improved immersive VR (3D, while you're at it), and things get interesting indeed. Keyboards still, I guess, but no mice-- and doubtless a much more automatically engaging experience than what most of us are used to.
posted by darth_tedious at 10:36 PM on June 4, 2009


The Youporn CEO commented: "what? You play... with your hands? How is this news?"
posted by _dario at 10:39 PM on June 4, 2009


Before you dismiss this too quickly: Johnny Chung is involved.
posted by null terminated at 10:41 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


For shooters you have to provide your own pew-pew sound effects.
posted by qvantamon at 10:41 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


So my holodeck might actually get here? Should I put my Real Doll on craigslist now, before values crash?
posted by maxwelton at 10:47 PM on June 4, 2009



For shooters you have to provide your own pew-pew sound effects.


heh, funny you should mention that...
posted by hellojed at 10:50 PM on June 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


Bring on the Wii ports!
posted by andrewcilento at 10:57 PM on June 4, 2009


When I was 14 I was doing all those things out in public for free.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:59 PM on June 4, 2009 [6 favorites]


Every time I hear about Natal, I have to link to this article from December 2007 on Gizmodo. It's about 3DV, the company that Microsoft bought the Natal tech from.

They even have a set of publications on their website. I was curious about how their depth sensor technology works. It's not stereoscopic, like in the video (unless microsoft is developing some really revolutionary hardware), but rather uses a flash of IR light. The sensor actually measures distance by the time of flight of the light pulse.

Let me say that again. It measures the distance by timing how long it takes the pulse of light to travel several feet.
posted by heathkit at 11:03 PM on June 4, 2009 [4 favorites]


hey, anyone else remember trying to figure out how to climb stairs in Castlevania?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:08 PM on June 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Very futuristic, as in right out of 2001 or Minority Report, but no VR gloves required!

Gaming applications are entirely suspect but it does have general controller applications. I can never find my stupid Apple remote when I need it -- it's kinda like the jump from stylus-driven PDAs to touchable PDAs, the latter being the generally superior solution in terms of ease of use.

Killer app: Golf.
posted by @troy at 11:18 PM on June 4, 2009


As cool as the Natal Project technology is, I agree with Sony that "some experiences still need buttons", or at least something tactile.

Plus, any racing game is limited to 10+ minutes before my shoulders give out.
posted by Defenestrator at 11:26 PM on June 4, 2009


First, a disclaimer: I work on the Xbox team. I haven't done anything with Natal though, and only learned of it's existence a couple months ago.

Anyways, links to various peoples' experiences with it:

Engadget
Gizmodo
Telegraph
Wired
GameDaily
posted by evilangela at 11:44 PM on June 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


The biggest worry I have about Natal is processing power.

The more a camera has to interpret, the more processing power it requires. Nintendo (and, I'm guessing, Sony's offering) can use relatively little processing power because the processor doesn't have to do much- it gets a set of inputs from the accelerometers in the controller, just like input commands from a gamepad. Microsoft's wholly camera-based system, however, has to do highly detailed video recognition on-the-fly, which is asking a lot when you simultaneously want HD graphics and minimal input lag. evilangela's Gizmodo link mentions a "small PC" was hooked up to the camera to simulate the final product: it must be crunching the numbers, which means the camera will be really expensive or Natal games will take a severe processing hit.

With that said, I hope it works as well as they say it does.
posted by Maxson at 12:03 AM on June 5, 2009


I saw the video the other day and thought "There is no way this thing would work in most conditions" but apparently it uses laser range finders, rather then simply stereoscopic cameras to do it's detection. I doubt you could make this work with just cameras, but if it really does 3d scanning, then I guess it could work pretty well.

Still, the thing is it doesn't really look like that much fun. Even if the thing can tell where my hands are, do I care? It might be fun for a 'learn to dance' thing, but for a racing game a $5 racing wheel with a wiimote would be a lot more fun, but something where you don't have to hold the thing up the whole time would be even better.
posted by delmoi at 12:09 AM on June 5, 2009


Microsoft's wholly camera-based system, however, has to do highly detailed video recognition on-the-fly

It's not a camera, it's a 3d scanner.
posted by delmoi at 12:12 AM on June 5, 2009


In the future, your arms will get really really tired.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:14 AM on June 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Typical Microsoft. Lovely white people playing games in their bonus room that's bigger than my whole apartment.
Also, if you live in the upper floor of an apartment and plan on buying one of these, understand that your downstairs neighbor is going to put sugar in your gas tank after the first week.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:17 AM on June 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Natal strikes me as the gaming equivalent of those sleek futuristic concept cars you see at every auto trade show that never really amount to anything. It's telling that all the demos were heavily scripted -- the Milo demo used a prerecorded voice, FFS -- and the one mocapped avatar that was shown in real time had a grand mal seizure and impaled itself with its own arm when given a simple task to mirror.

Maybe Natal could be great for simple Wii-style minigames that leverage the social appeal of physically interactive gaming. But the fields of machine vision and convincing artificial intelligence are simply inadequate for the kinds of things Microsoft is boasting about, at least not without being completely on rails like the demos were.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:20 AM on June 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


Somehow, I think this kind of technology will end up being utilized more by manufacturers, retailers, and in other commercial applications rather than home gaming. Where gaming is concerned, it seems like some kind of evolutionary misstep on the way to true neural integration. That's coming sooner than later, by the way.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:21 AM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


...And its MS bashing day again, down at the Brasserie...
posted by elcapitano at 12:23 AM on June 5, 2009


Let me say that again. It measures the distance by timing how long it takes the pulse of light to travel several feet.

Light is horrendously slow. Your CPU does a couple clock cycles in the time it takes for light to travel a foot.

The NES had a hands-free controller too, but shit sucked.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:28 AM on June 5, 2009


Light is horrendously slow. Your CPU does a couple clock cycles in the time it takes for light to travel a foot.

I'm sure you know you just compared a giant apple (motion of ponderous organic hominds) to a very tiny orange (circuitry on a microprocessor). I haven't seen specs on the controller for the Natal unit, but it probably doesn't need that much horsepower to track raw motion. The secondary refinement and presentation is where most of the development time has been spent.

The NES had a hands-free controller too, but shit sucked.


And that used technology akin to a theremin in the on going battle of apples against oranges.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:35 AM on June 5, 2009


I am just confused that there are no babies involved.
posted by boo_radley at 12:41 AM on June 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


How will it tell when I want my character to go backwards? And if I was playing a football (soccer) game, how will I make my player dive without throwing myself on the floor?
posted by tapeguy at 12:50 AM on June 5, 2009


For years video games had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning joysticks; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive -- you merely had to brush the screen with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the console and hope. It added some fun and physicality to the game of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to pause the bloody thing.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:50 AM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Typical Microsoft. Lovely white people playing games in their bonus room that's bigger than my whole apartment.

How is this different than any Wii trailer, which also had rooms the size of shipping containers?
posted by jscott at 12:52 AM on June 5, 2009



posted by jscott at 12:57 AM on June 5, 2009


My God, it's an ad, a promo. What do you expect? A couple of unwashed guys in a squat with needles sticking out of their arms?

It'll be interesting to see how this pans out. If it works it could be pretty exciting, but at this stage it seems to be another part of the console wars so it could just end up being another lame gadget that loses its novelty pretty quickly (or a shoddy piece of technology it MS introduce it to the market before it's ready... but they'd never do that would they?).

The voice recognition could be fun if it works well - especially for quiz games, and if they develop Songsmith for it. It's probably also going spawn a huge amount of peripherals - who wants to hold their hand in the shape of a gun while playing Call of Duty, and you are still going to need the coloured buttons for Guitar Hero, but I suppose they could do away with the strum bar if the motion sensing is accurate enough. Hmm, the more I think about it the more I kind of like the current controller...
posted by Elmore at 1:48 AM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


how will I make my player dive without throwing myself on the floor

Casual gamer.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:50 AM on June 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's about 3DV, the company that Microsoft bought the Natal tech from.

Has Microsoft ever invented any technology?
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:54 AM on June 5, 2009


For me Natal isn't about gaming. It's about a menu control interface for a console that doesn't fucking suck. I love my two analogue sticks for gaming. But what I do hate is scrolling through pages and pages of music on my 360 or trying to type even the shortest messages with a console controller. Absolutely hideous. If I can use Natal to Minority Report my way through menus and pick up my controller when the game starts, I'll be very, very happy.

And naturally, the Penny Arcade guys nail it in a comic and in a comment:

Peter Molyneux has no credit with me - he must always pay in advance, cash only. I am completely impervious to him, so when he says that he's invented some kind of digital boy this firm assertion is refracted into harmless light. Illusions of the kind he proposes are tremendously fragile - it's hard enough to maintain them in raw text, without the idiosyncrasies of the nested recognition systems in play with Milo. Please understand: I love the future, and I long to live there. I want very much to simulate a cognizant digital imp. But this man has broken my heart so many times that it can no longer contain love.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:27 AM on June 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's good to see the talent agency that casts all of those airport security videos is still thriving even in these tough times. This must have been a huge get for them.
posted by jadayne at 3:42 AM on June 5, 2009


That's a good point Slimepuppy, but I would only be willing to pay a certain amount for that luxury, and I can't see this costing under 20 euro (which in Microsoft land seems to convert to $20 all the time).
posted by Elmore at 3:45 AM on June 5, 2009


If it works, this is going to make Stoned Video Game Saturday much, much more interesting.
posted by The Whelk at 3:50 AM on June 5, 2009


HUMAN. TETRIS.
posted by lucidium at 4:16 AM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Has Microsoft ever invented any technology?

Yes.
posted by Slothrup at 4:49 AM on June 5, 2009 [7 favorites]


The creepiest thing about that video was the TV that was always on, waiting for members of the Cheerful Family to walk by, hoping it would play a game, or call a friend, or exercise, or...just say hello...poor tv...
posted by xingcat at 5:21 AM on June 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I hope some other companies figure this stuff out and make (and market) it well. Because I'd really really hate to buy a Microsoft product after going so long without.
posted by DU at 5:41 AM on June 5, 2009


Nintendo says they tried it already and it doesn't work.
posted by amuseDetachment at 5:48 AM on June 5, 2009


My God, it's an ad, a promo. What do you expect? A couple of unwashed guys in a squat with needles sticking out of their arms?

What kind of games do those guys play?
posted by box at 5:54 AM on June 5, 2009


...And its MS bashing day again, down at the Brasserie...
posted by elcapitano at 3:23 AM on June 5


Seriously. If this was from any other company you'd all be drooling over it. God forbid it was made by Apple, becasue this thread would be NSFW.

I have news for you - if this works half as well as they are claiming it does, it means that a legitimate in-game maneuver in Left 4 Dead would involve diving behind your sofa or throwing your loved ones in the line of fire.

This makes me think that at some point in the future, Microsoft should just change it's name. So many of its critics are superficial enough that doing something like that would in their minds constitute meaningful change.

It's not a camera, it's a 3d scanner.
posted by delmoi at 3:12 AM on June 5


The engadget story suggests that it is done with two cameras.
The box uses two sensors for input: a video camera, and an infrared camera (that light you see in the press photo is either power, or some part of the IR setup). The infrared data is used to gauge depth and the video camera movement, but it's the software Microsoft has developed which is really doing the magic.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:10 AM on June 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Light is horrendously slow. Your CPU does a couple clock cycles in the time it takes for light to travel a foot.

Heh. Or maybe the CPU are terrifically fast.
posted by smackfu at 6:13 AM on June 5, 2009


Nintendo says they tried it already and it doesn't work.
posted by amuseDetachment at 8:48 AM on June 5


Nice spin.

That article actually says that Nintendo tried to build something like it and failed: "Satoru Iwata said his company had made experimental games controlled by camera-based sensors, but got better results with the accelerometers it eventually chose to use for its Wii console." That says more about Nintendo's technical capability (or lack thereof) than the operation of Microsoft's device.

That same article goes on to say how Microsoft's Natal was well-received: "Demonstrations of Microsoft and Sony’s controllers were well received by analysts, gamers and game designers. Todd Greenwald, senior research analyst at the brokerage Signal Hill, described Microsoft’s controller as “highly innovative” and in a note to clients said that it “goes way beyond anything being done right now by the Wii”."

How is that brand loyalty working out for you?
posted by Pastabagel at 6:17 AM on June 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


From what I've heard, 3DV wasn't a part of this.

I think Natal will be really cool for menu systems, and as supplementary control, not primary. Leaning around corners, or maybe reaching up to your head to put on your nightvision goggles, actually throwing grenades; that sort of thing.

From the looks of it, if you wanted a wheel in a racing game, you could scan your Mario Kart wheel in and use that (or probably any round thing you've got lying around).
posted by graventy at 6:26 AM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seriously. If this was from any other company you'd all be drooling over it.

Many other companies do not have long histories of being liars who release a broken, crippled and closed version of an awesome general description.

From the "Nintendo tried that" link:

Satoru Iwata said his company had made experimental games controlled by camera-based sensors, but got better results with the accelerometers it eventually chose to use for its Wii console.

This isn't cameras. Unless he means it in the sense of "optical sensors"?
posted by DU at 6:29 AM on June 5, 2009


Actually, I take that back. Very few other companies do not have long histories of being liars. Which is why I'd be skeptical of this extraordinary claim no matter who it was from.
posted by DU at 6:31 AM on June 5, 2009


God forbid it was made by Apple, becasue this thread would be NSFW.

If this were Apple we wouldn't be talking because Apple does not make advance product (i.e. vaporware) announcements.

Also, people are skeptical of Microsoft announcements because for the past twenty years Microsoft has underdelivered on every single product they have ever launched. Except for the Microsoft Intellimouse.

Now that's one awesome piece of hardware.
posted by mistersquid at 6:54 AM on June 5, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'd strongly recommend null terminated's link which I saw via our own waxy.

The human tracking algorithms that the teams have developed are well ahead of the state of the art in computer vision in this domain. The sophistication and performance of the algorithms rival or exceed anything that I've seen in academic research, never mind a consumer product.

It would explain why no one else has done this, except that Microsoft never invented anything.
posted by yerfatma at 6:57 AM on June 5, 2009


Yeah, only Johnny Chung's presence is keeping me from outright incredulity. Instead, I'll wait to see it in action under real conditions. A YouTube video from a handpicked reviewer consisting of a single guy waving his arms in a completely blank room doesn't count.
posted by DU at 7:02 AM on June 5, 2009


Go to 2:50 in the promo video, and tell me you weren't expecting some sort of grilled cheese type action game.
posted by orme at 7:20 AM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I got excited by Microsoft Surface too, and where has that tech ended up? Mind you, this looks like it's designed to be slightly more affordable.

I'm firmly in the 'wait and see' camp at this point, but if it works, it's going to be a serious shift in the way games are played.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:26 AM on June 5, 2009


Oh man, I didn't realize I hadn't watched the whole promo video. I call complete BS on this. It cannot do what they imply it can do, although I will admit that it may be able to do certain selected subsets of what they actually show (as opposed to what they seem to show).
posted by DU at 7:35 AM on June 5, 2009


I have news for you - if this works half as well as they are claiming it does, it means that a legitimate in-game maneuver in Left 4 Dead would involve diving behind your sofa or throwing your loved ones in the line of fire.

What a fantastic idea!
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:07 AM on June 5, 2009



If this were Apple we wouldn't be talking because Apple does not make advance product (i.e. vaporware) announcements.

If only. I was there last year at WWDC when Apple announced that the iPhone would ship with push notifications. But it didn't. 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 all came and went and nothing. They finally got it working a week or so ago - but only for developers. There are other examples.

Back on topic, TrackIR has little USB adapters that will track your head movements in three dimensions with astonishing accuracy. It does this by using IR and some photoreflective tape on a ball cap. It is my understanding that it measures distances by pixel size, i.e. objects that are nearer use more pixels. It's exceedingly fast and really adds to the games that use it well - mostly flight and driving sims.

It seems to me that it would be trivial-ish to expand this to whole body movements, but it is important to point out that the sorts of kinematics required to make use of this device is still something a nascent field. It'll be much better in a few years, no question.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:12 AM on June 5, 2009


I call complete BS on this. It cannot do what they imply it can do

Well thank God we have you and your credentials to quash this.
posted by yerfatma at 8:24 AM on June 5, 2009


When my wife and I watched this the other day, we were of the mind that in 10 years, we will look back on this and laugh at the absurdities of what we were promised. I mean, don't get me wrong, if someone were to be able to pull this off, it would be huge, but based on what they are suggesting it will be able to do with just a couple of sensors mounted really close to each other, this just reeks of the most vaporous of vaporware.

I suspect that if anything comes to market, it will be a massively scaled back variant that does a few of the advertised things somewhat poorly.

And why "natal"? Is it so that they can call this the "prenatal" time? Because if so, I need to go killing some marketing folks.
posted by quin at 8:36 AM on June 5, 2009


Well thank God we have you and your credentials to quash this.

I actually know more about this than you can imagine.
posted by DU at 8:52 AM on June 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


Myron Krueger (previously) pioneered some of the things Natal is doing. I got to try out some of his art/demos around 1986 - 1990 (long after he had originally done the work - this was a museum exhibit).

It was neat to move and see on-screen characters respond. There was one game where a little bug would crawl around until it found you, and then climb to the highest point on your body. You could trap it if you circled your arms around it. I think there was another game where you could catch snowflakes.

If I remember correctly, he was using a PDP-11 for all of this. I think everything was based on the user's outline.
posted by zippy at 8:58 AM on June 5, 2009


OMGOMGOMG!!! DU's mother is Oprah!!!
posted by Elmore at 9:05 AM on June 5, 2009


I heard the entire test group for the Parkour game died.
posted by Pecinpah at 10:19 AM on June 5, 2009 [10 favorites]


Supposedly, it's called Natal because Microsoft names products after cities, until they're released. Natal is a city in Brazil, I think.

My favorite part of the video is the two girls sharing dress suggestions. Really, Microsoft? The "tween" market? Good luck with that.
posted by graventy at 11:10 AM on June 5, 2009


Seriously. If this was from any other company you'd all be drooling over it. God forbid it was made by Apple, becasue this thread would be NSFW.

If it was almost any other company I'd probably just write the whole thing off as pure fantasy.
posted by delmoi at 11:15 AM on June 5, 2009


I actually know more about this than you can imagine.

I don't know, I can imagine quite a bit. I'm sure your computer knowledge is in this field. Perhaps you own the patent on this very technique which is how you can afford to hang around Metafilter 23 hours a day posting about how nothing is ever as good as advertised and everyone is always dumber than they seem. I don't doubt your CV because I don't care. I'm simply surprised someone who has so much knowledge on a topic wouldn't want to share it, deciding instead to just tell us it's all BS. Thanks for the edification.
posted by yerfatma at 11:15 AM on June 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ha. yerfatma needs to LURK MOAR.
posted by nushustu at 11:51 AM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mocking Yerfatma for not getting a Metafilter in-joke is a little lame. Sarcasm is tricky even in person, much less on an online medium.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:17 PM on June 5, 2009


Gaw. Is it really just hate for Microsoft or did all of you nay-sayers get the red ring of death or... ? What exactly did the 360 do to you? I've had one since launch day and it never burned up. Since it's come out, I've been privileged to play such wonderful titles as Dead Rising, Beautiful Katamari, and Gears of War. I watched their E3 presentation this year and experienced more excitement than I've had in AGES. Metal Gear is coming to the 360. Squaresoft is announcing a new Final Fantasy game for the system! Then this!
Natal looks incredibly promising and, like somebody said up-thread, if they can combine this with 3-D graphics, even via glasses, the possibilities for just a, to me, unimaginable amount of fun. I have a Wii and a 360 and the 360 gets much more play. The Wii's sensor bar is hardly perfect and I don't imagine that the first release of Natal will be either. But if it can do even half of what it says on the box, I think it's a giant step forward for the entire industry and, if used correctly, could be responsible for some awesome, awesome games.
posted by Bageena at 12:46 PM on June 5, 2009


I think I'd be cheering pretty hard for this if Microsoft had been forced to split up as a result of all the anti-trust violations, or if they'd spun off their gaming division.

Even so, it's very cool, but I guess what limits my excitement is that the direction I most want to see progress in is the tactile interface with games. This seems to have peaked in the PC Gaming market with force feedback steering wheels for racing. However, there was a very short window where widespread enough uptake could have happened to make for good economies of scale, and not enough people bought in. Now it's all about cheap controllers below specific price points that vastly limit the interesting things that you can do.

I've long had a dream of fencing against a robot that is more skilled and tough than a human opponent in a full contact spar with adequate safety, but no requirement to restrain myself. Microsoft is providing a piece of that puzzle here, but for me it's one of the least interesting pieces. That coupled with their general failure to deliver on technology (excepting the intellimouse perhaps) makes me want to take a dump all over this so that I can manage my expectations properly. If you expect the worst, you can get a pleasant surprise when they actually deliver. If you expect this to be flawless, widely adopted, and well executed in games, I admire your passion for the hobby, but expect you to be a little disappointed.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:26 PM on June 5, 2009


Also, Microsoft and the software industry as a whole often gets so involved in whiz-bang technical features that they forget core things like usability and writing. Which is why I often play games that are five years behind the bleeding edge.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:28 PM on June 5, 2009


Supposedly, it's called Natal because Microsoft names products after cities, until they're released. Natal is a city in Brazil, I think.

I think you're meaning Intel on the cities as code words, like Conroe, Mendocino, Nehalem, Northwood, etc. Though there's no real schema to it as they also use places, rivers, etc.

Microsoft's code names this decade have mainly been influenced by where the devs go have fun it seems. Whistler(Server 2003) and Blackcomb(Windows 7) are two ski mountains just north of Vancouver where Microsofties are known to come for the powder, and Longhorn(Vista) is apparently a reference to a bar near the base of Whistler. Bobcat (SBS2003) is the name of a ski run on Whistler, among other things. Freestyle, Harmony, Symphony and Emerald (MCE 2003, 2004, 2005 and the SP to 2005) are ski lifts and runs at Whistler as well.
posted by barc0001 at 2:13 PM on June 5, 2009


I think you're meaning Intel on the cities as code words

I can confirm that Microsoft code names are nearly all based on cities or places now. I hear that it's pretty hard to get LCA (legal) approval for nonconforming names.
posted by Slothrup at 3:03 PM on June 5, 2009


If MSFT doesn't make it possible for people to create and license adult-oriented games for this interface, I will be *sooo* disappointed.
posted by markkraft at 5:14 PM on June 5, 2009


The tech seems impressive, if it works at all as well as they claim.

But I'm not at all sure how well it'll work for a game controller, it seems as if gorilla arm would be a major problem.

Take the Wii, yeah, on the commercial they show people waving the controller all over in beautiful artistic maneuvers that no one could keep up for more than a few minutes at a time. In actual use, the motion sensing abilities of the controller are used, but mostly as an accelerometer for occasional stuff, not so much as the primary interface. Its the micromovements for aiming at stuff on screen and pushing buttons that still accounts for the vast majority of input for the very simple reason that for playing more than ten minutes or so holding your arms up or making bigger movements with your arms gets very tiring.

So I'm wondering what, if anything, MS intends to do with the Natal for gaming purposes.

Its a damn impressive technological feat, but I'm just not seeing a whole lot of real apps for it until we do invent immerseive VR.
posted by sotonohito at 6:33 PM on June 5, 2009


I got excited by Microsoft Surface too, and where has that tech ended up?

On a laptop near you.

Additionally, don't write Surface off that easily; (I work for an MS ISV) we've seen a tremendous amount of interest from government (Asia) and from management-consulting clients. We just delivered a unit to a client here.
posted by the cydonian at 8:02 PM on June 5, 2009


Laser rangefinding only tells you how far you are from the finder. Not much useful information. Sony once had a camera interface for the old PSP2 that was pretty limited in its accuracy at figuring out what is you and what isn't you in the image. Microsoft's supposedly put a lot of research into this so it will be interesting to see what the result is.

In other gaming news from someone who doesn't own any gaming consoles, Wii has a new controller out that's much more accurate than their old one, which was really no better than a game console with buttons that you press by waving your arms. I guess it gets you moving a little bit. I'll have to convince my sister to buy the new one so I can go over there and try it out.
posted by eye of newt at 9:43 PM on June 5, 2009


eye of newt Mostly I found the Wii's motion sensing stuff to be a bit gimmicky. Using it to aim is great, but the rest....

Shaking the controller instead of hitting a button works out ok, but I don't think its a huge advance in gaming.

They did put a bit more immagination into it for Metroid Prime 3, but it was mostly all gimmicks. Pull the controller back, rotate, and push forward to simulate Samus grabbing a control and doing the same thing. It was kind of fun, in a "wow, it really works" sort of way once or twice, but after a while it got a bit old. And the "flick the nunchuck forward to activate the grab beam" bit is really nothing more than the "shake the controller to make Mario spin/make Link swing his sword" deal. Like you said, its basically a button push.

However, I do think that motion sensing in general (either MS's thing, or improved controller locators) might pay off as people get a better handle on how to use it. The tech has only been around in workable form for a very short time.

I will say though, that if I'm playing a game I really don't want to be thrashing around, so I remain skeptical as to whether it will ever become a major part of the interface, or if it'll remain the realm of a few gimmicks now and then.

the cydonian Actually, just yesterday, I was thinking how damn convenient it would be to have some sort of tablet interface for my phone. I finally broke down and bought a notebook and holder thing for notetaking on my job. I'd been trying to take the notes using my phone, but the keyboard was just too cramped for quick use.

If I had an 8.5 X 11 tablet with bluetooth connection to the phone, minimal display (it wouldn't even need gray-scale, just pure B&W, wouldn't need a backlight, hell just a touchscreen and epaper would do), etc it'd be great. I could quickly write my notes, and have them in real (ie: electronic) format so I could find them quickly instead of having to dig through paper. Handwriting recognition would be nice, but not strictly necessary.
posted by sotonohito at 4:30 AM on June 6, 2009


eye of newt wrote: Sony once had a camera interface for the old PSP2 that was pretty limited in its accuracy at figuring out what is you and what isn't you in the image.

The new one, the Playstation Eye has a microphone array to localize sounds, along with better resolution and low light performance. They've already been using it for augmented reality games like Eye of Judgement and the minigames they occasionally release like Trials of Topoq and Aquatopia.

The upcoming EyePetYouTube looks really neat from a technical standpoint, presuming it works.

Really, though, I think gaming with just a camera is and will always be a poor gimmick, much like the Wii racing wheel. The masses may snap it up, though, as they have with touchscreens, as they fail to understand the value of tactile feedback.

Sony's motion controller looks far more interesting to me, but still pretty "meh."

It's funny how a good demo can spur the gaming press into a frenzy, while actually releasing games that do the things that Natal will supposedly do in the future gets little to no reaction whatsoever.
posted by wierdo at 5:10 PM on June 6, 2009


Actually, the more I think about it, having no controller at all is a really good idea. No more sweat-slicked plastic projectiles impaling your loved ones.

I'm looking forward to seeing more interesting uses of the technology, beyond just emulating physical controllers and existing sports.
posted by lucidium at 7:31 AM on June 7, 2009


All this and no mention of Totemball?

Totemball should be really great with Natal :)
posted by mouthnoize at 2:15 PM on June 11, 2009


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