E309: Microsoft Announces Motion Sensor

According to Microsoft, the future of gaming for everyone is not motion control but motion recognition. Today during their E3 press conference Microsoft, in a demonstration of unprecedented console technology, unveiled it’s answer to the Wii, in the form of Natal, a sensor bar that doesn’t rely on a controller for input but recognizes and reads the motion of your body.

It was surreal watching the demo video with people playing games using only their bodies to control the onscreen action. It seemed more like a concept from science fiction that real world technology but as a few stage demonstrations proved, Natal is not only functional but apparently, already in the hands of developers.

It remains to be seen how reliable the sensors are with more advanced uses, how sophisticated the technology is at this point or how well it will be implemented into hardcore titles. The stage demos, while a legitimate demonstration of an exciting new advancement, didn’t showcase much beyond it’s simple applications in avatar control and games that directly relate to that. Also, as the motion capture avatar control was being demoed the onscreen avatar went a little spastic as Natal attempted to read the person’s position.

I suspect it may not be as perfect as we might hope and aside from the presumed potential of such technology, advanced hardcore applications where not shown. Still, this announcement is huge, both for it’s future promise in the hands of visionaries such as Peter Molyneux, who offered an impressive demo of Natal’s capacity for player interaction in a game world, but also for what it means for competitors Nintendo and Sony.

By comparison, Natal obliterates the capabilities of the Wii since it frees players from the controller itself and allows for a far more diverse range of motion and interaction. Wii motion plus at this point may be too little too late but we’ll see.

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