E3 Goes Natal

I'm finally decompressing from last week's E3 convention.  Yes, The Beatles:  Rock Band stole much of the show.  But there was another innovation that caught my eye too:  Microsoft's Project Natal.

Leading up to the convention, I blogged a few times about the rumors on Microsoft's motion-sensing controller. But the reality was a true blow-away.  I went into a small back room where I got a hands-on try.  Or, rather, hands-free.  We've seen earlier attempts at motion sensing cams - most notably, Sony's ill-fated EyeToy camera.  This is an entirely new bag, though.  I got to play a racing game.  To control the action, I just stuck out my hands, made a loose steering-wheel gesture, and was off.   This was no Dactyl Nightmare mess.  The controls were supple, precise.  I made a slight counterclockwise hand-twist, and the car moved accordingly.  To accelerate, I merely had to step forward into space.  To brake, step back.  Goosebumps not included.  At the end, I talked with another jaded writer about it and all we could say was, "wow."  

The wow comes in the potential applications.  Yes, this will make for some compelling new gameplay - but what else?  How about just moving around my files and data?  It's that scene in Minority Report made true - point, gesture, wave - no mouse, no remote to clutch.  There will be a lot of lame attempts to realize the potential of Natal, and maybe we're years away from the payoff.  But it's the first time I've experienced a new interface that really brings the Holodeck to mind. 

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