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 voices.
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 axis.
“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.