The company's highly anticipated, motion-sensitive controller follows efforts by Nintendo and Sony to liberate gamers from the tyranny of controls. Known previously as Project Natal, the Kinect gaming device is scheduled to hit stores by Christmas.
Microsoft formally unveiled the Kinect "controller-free
gaming device" for the Xbox 360 gaming console at the E3 video game convention.
The long-anticipated launch, previously known under the codename Natal,
is being positioned by the company as an entirely new way to experience home
entertainment. The Kinect sensor plugs directly into the Xbox 360 console and
contains a camera, audio sensors and motion-sensing technology that tracks 48
points of movement on the human body. Although Microsoft revealed few details
about the device, the company noted Kinect can also recognize faces and
Microsoft described Kinect as able to perform full-motion
tracking of the human body at 30 frames per second, regardless of what the user
is wearing or what objects surround the user in the home environment.
"You are the controller," explained Mike Delman, corporate vice president
of global marketing for the company's interactive entertainment business. "You
simply step in front of the sensor and Kinect sees you move, hears your voice
and recognizes your face."
Although price and specific street date were not disclosed,
Microsoft had previously announced the device would be in stores for the 2010
holiday season. More details are expected at a Microsoft press conference that
kicks off the E3 convention today. Kinect's debut on Sunday was staged around a
performance by the alternative circus troop Cirque du Soleil in Los
Angeles. Along with a 76-person strong cast of
dancers, musicians, acrobats and clowns, the show featured 25-foot-high
projection screens and a 40-foot-diameter steel structure that rotates on its
"It's an amazing year just when you look at the things
people are expecting," said corporate vice president of Xbox Live Marc Whitten.
"But we're excited to also be announcing ways that make it simpler for everyone
to enjoy the things we do. People who are intimidated by a controller or game
pad will finally get to unlock some of the experiences that are possible in the
living room, gaming and non-gaming alike."
While Microsoft is pitching the Kinect experience as the
future of home entertainment, the company is also playing catch-up with
Nintendo; the motion-sensitive Wii has been hugely influential not just in how
gamers play, but the very definition of who a potential gamer is. The third
major player in the console wars, Sony, is also moving forward with a
motion-sensitive component of its PlayStation 3 console. The Move is an
upcoming motion-sensing game controller platform formerly called the
PlayStation Motion Controller, which acts like a cross between Nintendo's
Wiimote and Sony's PlayStation Eye Webcam.
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.