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Input Devices Microsoft XBox (Games) Games

Checking In On Project Natal 186

Posted by timothy
from the project-nascent dept.
itwbennett writes "A couple of interesting articles followed Robbie Bach's announcement at CES that Project Natal, Microsoft's controller-free Xbox 360 control system, will be shipping in time for the 2010 holiday season, writes blogger Peter Smith. First, Popular Science has a nice look at how Project Natal works, focusing mostly on the software and how 'Microsoft engineers are teaching the Natal 'brain' what various parts of the human body look like so that Natal can tell your ascot from your elbow.' Microsoft is staying mum on the hardware, although Smith notes that we know it involves an infrared camera. 'If you don't care about how the tech works but just want to know if it'll be worth buying,' writes Smith, 'you might be interested in an interview with Robbie Bach in the Financial Post. In the interview Bach claims that 70%-80% of Xbox 360 developers are working on some kind of Natal-enabled gaming software, and he assures us that first-party studios are also hard at work.'"
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Checking In On Project Natal

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  • Sport (Score:4, Funny)

    by Jurily (900488) <jurily@@@gmail...com> on Thursday January 14, 2010 @02:21PM (#30769004)

    If I want to use my whole body to play, I'll go outside. Don't take my keyboard/mouse/controller away from me.

    • by El Lobo (994537) *
      I'll go outside. And have fun with my Natal as well. Double fun.
    • If I wanted a joystick, I'd buy a joystick, don't put a thumbstick on my controller

      If I wanted more than two buttons on my controller, I'd tape two NES controllers together.

      If I wanted wireless controllers, I'd just yell instructions at my little brother as he plays using the wired controller.

      If I wanted online gaming, I'd call a friend on the telephone while playing Super Mario Bros 3

      If I wanted 64 bits, I'd wire 8 NESes together

      If I wanted to go duck hunting, I'd get my shotgun and some ducks and my dog w

    • by lymond01 (314120)

      Think holodeck. Or at least 2D lightsaber battles with friends online.

  • Natal Brain? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WiiVault (1039946)
    Gimmie a break. I'm all for innovative UIs and input, but calling it a brain is a joke and insulting to those who actually work in fields that contribute to AI research. Natal seems really cool, but lets not get out of hand.
  • Am I the only one (Score:4, Interesting)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday January 14, 2010 @02:24PM (#30769052)
    Am I the only one who thinks all these motion controllers are a passing fad that we will one day look back on and laugh about? All the console makers seem to be jumping onboard, but it just makes my arms tired.
    • and many wrote off the GUI in general.

      It is how we use the technology that will be important. It might be a fad in games but this has so many other uses and might present a cheaper method for many people to enter into this field (motion control portion not the game portion). This will probably reduce the costs of some groups immensely.

      There are still lots of applications today that require hands on manipulation, even waldos, that could benefit from applications of this. Let alone all those stories many

      • by Bakkster (1529253)

        It is how we use the technology that will be important. It might be a fad in games but this has so many other uses and might present a cheaper method for many people to enter into this field (motion control portion not the game portion).

        An interesting potential use is like TrackIR [naturalpoint.com] for head tracking and controlling the game camera. Especially for flight or driving games where it's inconvenient to use the right thumb stick to look around. I can envision other, similar uses to augment standard control schemes.

        • by tepples (727027)

          An interesting potential use is like TrackIR for head tracking and controlling the game camera.

          That would work with a head-mounted display like the rumored "Nintendo On" accessory [youtube.com]. But with a standard TV, if you move your head, you look away from the screen. The only way I can see that it'd work is if the position of the head mapped to that of the stick, where the rate of camera rotation is proportional to the angular displacement of the head. But then I can see where that would lead to nausea.

          • by Bakkster (1529253)

            The screen turns at a faster rate than your head. For example 15-30 degrees (gentle enough to turn your eyeballs and still look at the screen) correlates to 90 degrees of camera rotation. Many people use this system already for PC racing sims successfully.

    • No (Score:3, Insightful)

      by oGMo (379)

      No. Some of us have been looking at them and laughing since day one. I would say the gimmick has, to some extent, already been exposed to most: after all, you can only keep claiming to have a brilliant new innovative technology that will revolutionize gaming for so many years before people realize you haven't actually made any innovative new games and nothing has been revolutionized. And all the AAA games are still using the "old" technology. And waggling a control may amuse your grandma for a time, but

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        Bah, next you'll be telling me that the Segway didn't revolutionize the way we walk around.
    • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @02:56PM (#30769632)

      Am I the only one who thinks all these motion controllers are a passing fad that we will one day
      look back on and laugh about?

      No. You'll be happy to know you're one of a million-strong army of internet nerds that 'predicts' that anything popular will not be in the unspecified future. Your breed is not rare, although noone is quite sure how they continue to thrive from generation to generation.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        Like those fools who said Virtual Reality gaming was just a 90's fad?
        • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @03:24PM (#30770054)

          More like those fools that said two screens was a gimmick, touch screens aren't innovative, nobody would play a game like Doom with the mouse instead of a keyboard, a music player without wirelss is lame, nobody wants a phone with a camera built in, etc.

          Oh, and if you want to try an interesting academic excercise, go watch what Hollywood thought Virtual Reality would be back in 1993 then look at the games we play today. When you shake your head and go 'so?' think about what 16-bit games were like and the fact that Wolfenstein had not been main-stream yet.

          You guys don't know the future and you don't appear 'smarter' because you're making a bet on it.

          • by elrous0 (869638) *

            You guys don't know the future and you don't appear 'smarter' because you're making a bet on it.

            I would same the same of Microsoft.

          • by Tikkun (992269)

            nobody wants a phone with a camera built in

            True. People's ability to use crappy technology to enhance their social status at drinking events astounds me.

            Of course, since I'm not invited to such events I'll continue to talk about how much $overpriced_gadget is lame on slashdot, rather than purchasing it and using it in the basement.

          • by sammy baby (14909)

            Oh, and if you want to try an interesting academic excercise, go watch what Hollywood thought Virtual Reality would be back in 1993 then look at the games we play today. When you shake your head and go 'so?' think about what 16-bit games were like and the fact that Wolfenstein had not been main-stream yet.

            I'll tack something on to this: the only reason so called "virtual reality" games didn't become more popular is because the 3D technology that enabled them was big, expensive, and not particularly impress

      • by sorak (246725)

        Am I the only one who thinks all these motion controllers are a passing fad that we will one day
        look back on and laugh about?

        No. You'll be happy to know you're one of a million-strong army of internet nerds that 'predicts' that anything popular will not be in the unspecified future. Your breed is not rare, although noone is quite sure how they continue to thrive from generation to generation.

        So are you suggesting that one day we will look back on them and laugh?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Two words: CmdrTaco. Ipod.
    • by AbRASiON (589899) *

      I believe the first Wii controller and natal are most definitely rubbish but Wii motion plus and Sony's new wands look interesting.
      I don't think they'll replace the controller but they could add to it.

    • Probably not. But I'd say you are wrong. Natal + 3D TV brings us closer to "Virtual Reality"... but there is a long way to go.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Marty McFly: [showing the two boys how to play the shoot 'em up video game] I'll show you, kid. I'm a crack shot at this.
      [shoots a perfect score with the electronic gun]
      Video Game Boy #1: You mean you have to use your hands?
      Video Game Boy #2: That's like a baby's toy!
  • by bigmaddog (184845) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @02:28PM (#30769152)
    They had to develop techniques to counter certain types of misuse [penny-arcade.com]...
  • by sznupi (719324) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @02:29PM (#30769162) Homepage

    It seems it's a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time-of-flight_camera [wikipedia.org] , made with the tech MS acquired from 3DV Systems.

    In the form of Natal, certainly cheap. Mighty fun stuff; somebody will finally make, using also this thing, robotic overlords good enough to doom us all.

    Assuming there will be free Windows SDK at the least, of course... (or, even better, the protocol will be clear enough to figure out easily into lib usable across platforms)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by daenris (892027)

      Actually, according to one article, the developer has specifically said it's not a time of flight camera. In the comments for http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20527426.800-microsofts-bodysensing-buttonbusting-controller.html [newscientist.com] the author quotes Kipman (the lead Natal developer) as saying: ""Our IR does not pulse and it is not based on a TOF system (which usually pulses). Our light source is constant much like you would expect a projection system to work in a conference room."

      • (and my parent post - down...)

        You are absolutely right; what an unfortunate development (on top of that MS bought out Zcam team shortly before they were to release their webcam; I think now I'm angry instead of eagerly waiting - MS doesn't dissapoint yet again)

        http://www.primesense.com/category/reference_design [primesense.com]
        ^this is the tech on which Natal is based; essentially it is Natal, as you can see from the diagrams. While interesting in its own right, at least for indoors usage & when geared towards noticing

      • ...while my topmost post which started this subtree of discussion - down (I feel ashamed for spreading this inaccuracy about Natal & TOF camera now)

        Gotta go to sleep; and sleeping through might help ;(

  • by Tridus (79566) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @02:39PM (#30769340) Homepage

    With word coming out that they removed Natal's processor and it'll now use anywhere from 10% to 33% of the 360's own processing power, just how good will the games be? There's going to be a price in what developers can you do when you chop that much CPU time out of the system compared to a standard game.

    I dunno, I like the idea, but it seems like something Microsoft should bundle with their next system and not tack on to the 360.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Why wouldn't they just do both? Use the 360 as a launching platform into the next generation model.
      • by Tridus (79566)

        I didn't think of that. If they stick with it long enough, that makes sense. Peripherals often don't do very well on consoles though, so what if it doesn't sell well on the 360 and MS just gives up on it?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        This is it.

        Slapping motion controls on the junk old Xbox 360 hardware is the only option for Microsoft other than just pulling the plug on the whole mess. Search is Ballmer's new baby and it is looking like it is on track to rack up Xbox style billions in losses.

        Giving Robbie Bach the green light to spend the billions it would take to design and manufacture new Xbox hardware is about as likely as Microsoft switching Windows and Office to the GPL. The Xbox 360 was supposed to be the console that E&D fina

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ShakaUVM (157947)

          >>New Xbox hardware isn't going to happen. Ever.

          If ever, you mean "in the next couple years", then yeah, maybe.

          Pedantic Note: Except we've been getting new Xbox hardware. Look at the differences in the different revs of the 360. They've migrated both the CPU and GPU from 90 to 65nm, and reduced power consumption by about 50W.

          No game generation has ever been "for forever". It'd be kind of silly to expect the 360 to be the last Xbox they ever make.

    • Well, I guess the optimisation of 360 games has improved over time so the graphics quality won't necessarily drop (much) relative to the baseline of the early current-generation titles. Really though, I think the tech looks useful even if the games are less graphically good. I've played on the Wii before and for serious games (Resident Evil 4) their motion technology really did make things more exciting and scary even though that platform had very little CPU power available. For casual games, the Wii is

      • by Tridus (79566)

        I guess the issue here is how big is the "casual" market on the 360? The Wii does pretty good in that space, how many of those people are going to buy a 360 and the Natal addon?

        I mean in theory Natal should be able to do anything the Wii can, only do it with most of the power of the 360 behind it, which could be pretty awesome for some types of games. I'm just not that convinced the actual market of 360 customers is all that interested, or that the "casual" market of Wii users is going to pick up a 360.

        Hope

        • Good questions. The 360 Arcade is pretty cheap nowadays though, I think, so perhaps that should make it competitive price-wise with the Wii for casual games. I'd probably invest in a few casual games for the 360 given I have one already, so maybe there'll be some uptake that way too.

          But agreed the Wii has significant "man on the street" mindshare - plenty of non-gamers think of it as "the fun console for normal people" and it would be fairly tricky for Microsoft to unseat them. But if they stump up the m

        • From comments I've seen, I'd put money on seeing a Natal add-on for existing 360 owners AND a new 360 model with Natal built-in.
        • Random sample here. I would like a casual game for 360. Something like Wii fit. Maybe a yoga training game. Buying something on my existing 360 sure beats buying a whole Wii and wii fit package.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by decipher_saint (72686)

      I would like it to control some kind of slapping device linked to Xbox Live Chat...

    • by Bakkster (1529253)

      With word coming out that they removed Natal's processor and it'll now use anywhere from 10% to 33% of the 360's own processing power, just how good will the games be? There's going to be a price in what developers can you do when you chop that much CPU time out of the system compared to a standard game.

      I don't think it will be a problem for games designed from the get-go to take advantage of the system, but it will limit adding the feature to already released games.

  • I don't know if it is just me, but I'm not sure if it'll be that much fun.. The first thing that comes to my mind when I see the preview movies on how the Natal will be controlled with no joysticks is: Great, but no feedback from the controller as well... I think the "feel" of the game is an important part that was left out of the project...
  • There is a big difference between a publisher and a developer. There aren't that many publishers out there, less than 20, so that could mean as little as 14-16 games. By contrast, if he said developers, there are lots of those...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jpmorgan (517966)

      Don't underestimate those numbers. 15 third party games at launch would be astounding.

  • In the interview Bach claims that 70%-80% of Xbox 360 developers are working on some kind of Natal-enabled gaming software.

    This means:
    A) Shovelware to keep in MS's good graces
    B) Otherwise normal games that have a special achievement for "waving your hands at the camera" or something similar
    C) both?

    While Natal is interesting, the problem with it is the same with basically every "official" peripheral ever. Unless they pack it in with the system (and I haven't seen anything to suggest such), it will have a ve

  • Other uses (Score:2, Interesting)

    After it has learned how to predict our movements, couldn't this be used to kill us with guns? There was a 60 minutes piece on the virtual fence--most interesting part for nerds was the AI system to recognize what to show to people. Apparently rolling sagebrush and various fauna were triggering too many false positives.

    Good stuff.

  • Microsoft is staying mum on the hardware, although Smith notes that we know it involves an infrared camera.

    How is it "controller free" if it involves hardware? Isn't that infrared camera the controller?

    • by AP31R0N (723649)

      The thing with the sticks and buttons are called controllers. Any 11 year old could tell you that. The infrared camera is an input device, but it's not a controller (which is also an input device [and sometimes an output device]).

      • by dangitman (862676)
        A controller is anything that controls something. Anyone with a basic knowledge of English can tell you that. The term is not limited to "the thing with sticks and buttons."
  • Combined with 3D (Score:3, Interesting)

    by odin84gk (1162545) on Thursday January 14, 2010 @03:33PM (#30770208)

    Just think of Natal combined with three dimensional televisions. Now there is an interface that I can get behind.

  • The technology behind this is interesting, unfortunatly I have a bad feeling the only games for this will be silly "casual" (there's that word!) games. Maybe with just one killer app this will be worthwhile...
  • Maybe. But there's no doubt that level of interactivity has some interesting possibilities...

  • ... thinking there would eventually be some games that I would play on it. I've purchased Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn and Final Fantasy: Chocobo's Dungeon. Sadly I haven't seen any other new games made for the platform that I want to play.

    I'll wait on getting Natal until there are at least 3 games on it that I'll want to buy. Until then I'll continue using my wiimote on my computer to play console games I've had for years.
  • Is natal not using patented technology, or do these guys just not know how to look up a patent?
  • I can never figure out from all these articles whether or not Natal will have 3D based on head tracking. I am much less interested in full-body-control. Head tracking would apply to almost every 3D game, with little or no modification; full-body-control applies to a smaller subset of the games - and users, for that matter. Sure, they hired Johnny Lee [lazygamer.co.za] but I haven't seen any explicit statement in that regard. Does anyone have any hard info on that?
    • by jpmorgan (517966)

      If the Natal device can detect head position (which it presumably can) then head-tracking as presented by Johnny Lee doesn't have to be explicitly supported by Natal. Devs just need to read the head position from Natal and use it to update the viewpoint when rendering the scene.

    • I wonder whether this is really feasible and maybe that's why you're not finding a straight answer to your question. The main effect of head tracking might just be massive eyestrain and headaches for some viewers.

      What I suspect is that head tracking, having been used successfully in CAVE environments where "reality" is presented in 1:1 scale, will not map down to an images in which a 60 degree field of view is presented on a monitor only encompassing 30 degrees of your actual view. The real world (the roo

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