“This is a pivotal moment that will carry with it a wave of change, the ripples of which will reach far beyond video games” – Steven Spielberg

So Nintendo introduced the world to motion based gaming with the introduction of the Wii. This revolutionised the gaming industry in a way that many believed impossible. The Wii is so successful not because of its technical hardware capabilities but rather its ability to involve the entire family. This breakaway from the stereotypical gaming target market leads the way into the future for gaming businesses.

This is where Microsoft comes in… Project Natal was announced last year and looks to be full of promises. I for one thought it seemed more like a concept car, a prototype that would need years of fine tuning. However Microsoft are almost ready to launch this revolutionary gaming breakthrough near then end of 2010.

So what is Project Natal and why is it so cool?

In Microsoft’s words “It’s a glimpse into a future where the Xbox 360 console is the centerpiece of any living room, and games, social interaction and communications are controlled with the wave of a hand.” Basically Natal allows users to play games and interact with their Xbox with hand/body movements. This is a major step forward for a console as one of the major factors that non-gamers find so intimidating is the controller. The introduction of a more natural control system immediately opens the doors to a wider target market for Microsoft.

Project Natal is a small device that you attached to your Xbox 360. It has a video camera in it that tracks where your body is and what you’re doing with it. It also has a monochrome camera (utilising infrared) that has depth perception — working out how far away your body and its component parts are — and a highly specialized microphone that can pick up voice commands. Along with all this hardware, it’s got a ton of software that tells the Xbox how to find your body’s various joints (it tracks 48 of them), how to keep track of multiple players at the same time, how to tell your tie-dye T-Shirt apart from the colorful wallpaper behind you, and so on. Microsoft even did an acoustic study of living rooms, so Project Natal can tell when you’re talking, when your mates are talking and when somebody in the game is talking, so it knows whom to take voice commands from.

The resulting awesomeness is incredible, for example as you walk up to your Xbox it recognises your facial features and automatically logs you in to your gamer profile. There is just so much potential for Microsofts new toy! We have scavenged a few examples showcasing how Natal can be used in the future.

Check out our more recent articles on this topic – Xbox Project Natal becomes Xbox Kinect (Games announced) and check out Sony’s motion controller – Sony Move