Microsoft has confirmed that their new motion-detecting camera for the Xbox 360 will be released by the end of this year.
The announcement was made during Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s keynote speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The device, codenamed Natal, is “scheduled to be available in holiday season 2010.”
“Project Natal” allows for games to be played without the use of a controller through the use of a 3D camera. It works by capturing 2D images and combining them with a depth-detecting camera and body-recognition software, so your entire body can be used as a controller.
The technology is more sophisticated than that used by previous games, such as the Playstation 2 EyeToy range. An infrared projector and sensor allows the console to capture skeletal movement even in low-light conditions, monitoring 48 different points on a person’s body.
Microsoft hopes that Natal will inspire new game ideas and be enjoyed by a wide audience, however since the unveiling at the major gaming industry trade show E3 last June there have been few details on games that will be released with the device.
Company executive Aaron Greenberg told gaming blog Joystiq: “We’re going to manage the portfolio very carefully and our focus is going to be on bringing completely brand new original experiences to the market when we launch Natal.”
Sony is also planning to release a new motion controller for the Playstation 3 this spring. Currently without a name, their system consists of a handheld wand containing motion sensors similar to the ones used in the Wii.
It also features a coloured orb on the top of the controller, so movement can also be tracked through the Playstation Eye camera, which currently costs £25.
The “Playstation Motion Controller” is intended to provide a new way of playing the types of games already released on the console, rather than completely new experiences.
A new version of Capcom’s 2009 survival horror title “Resident Evil 5”, subtitled “Alternative Edition”, is set to be released with support for the new controller, and some already released games such as platformer “LittleBigPlanet” will receive downloadable updates enabling the use of the motion control scheme.
Sony and Microsoft’s plans come after the success of the Wii for bringing motion-controlled games to a mainstream audience.
Earlier this month, Nintendo announced that over 20m Wii consoles have been sold in Europe since the system’s launch in December 2006, which they claim makes it the fastest selling home console ever in the region.
Nintendo has been working to improve the quality of the Wii Remote controller since its launch, with the release of the MotionPlus peripheral, included with the game “Wii Sports Resort”. The small attachment clips on to the bottom of the controller and increases the accuracy and complexity of the movement data measured.
Motion control is seen as being able to provide new, more immersive experiences in games, as well as making them more accessible to those who find traditional controllers intimidating.
Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s entertainment division, says: “With Project Natal we are removing the last barrier to gaming, the controller, freeing you to have the experience you want with technology that is natural for you.”
“Project Natal” and the “Playstation Motion Controller” are scheduled for release this year. No pricing details have been released for either.Tweet