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Microsoft Debuts Full-Body Controller-less Gaming At E3 242

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the just-don't-throw-yourself-through-the-tv dept.
quintin3265 writes "At today's Electronic Entertainment Expo press briefing, Microsoft unveiled Project Natal, a technology that eliminates the controller from gaming on the Xbox 360. In one demo, a player used her arms and legs to hit balls in an attempt to destroy a brick wall, and in another game, an employee threw virtual "paint" on a canvas to create a painting, even drawing an elephant using a silhouette feature. An accompanying video also demonstrated automatic login using facial recognition, videoconferencing with other Xbox Live members, and participating in a gameshow against another family through the Internet using speech recognition."
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Microsoft Debuts Full-Body Controller-less Gaming At E3

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  • Activator (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zero_DgZ (1047348) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:19PM (#28174789)

    Does anyone else remember the "Activator" controller for the Genesis/SNES? This sounds like an echo of that concept, but with updated technology that might actualy, you know... work.

    Everything old is new again. Around and around we go...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by bladx (816461)
      Ah ha ha... the "Activator"
      The facial expressions of the guys in the video is almost equally as funny;

      http://www.destructoid.com/sega-activator-the-crappiest-game-peripheral-26148.phtml [destructoid.com]
    • Re:Activator (Score:4, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:35PM (#28174987)

      This sounds like an echo of that concept, but with updated technology that might actualy, you know... work.

      The concept of "moving your body to make stuff happen" isn't novel, no. IMHO the value of the concept is beyond question, it's purely a matter of execution - i.e. whether it works. It would seemingly be extremely difficult to get the latency low enough. If the latency is low, even if the motion tracking is fairly crude, they should be able to use it to make a DDR "dance pad" (without the pad) that doesn't wear out and break. But heck, if it worked well enough, they could take all the electronics out of a normal gamepad and just watch your fingers instead. (I'm sure it doesn't have that level of acuity though).

    • Re:Activator (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jurily (900488) <jurily@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Monday June 01, 2009 @07:17PM (#28175467)

      Everything old is new again. Around and around we go...

      No kidding. "Full-Body Controller-less Gaming" has already been invented. It's called "sport".

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by duiu (1480325)

        Everything old is new again. Around and around we go...

        No kidding. "Full-Body Controller-less Gaming" has already been invented. It's called "sport".

        Because I can get together with some friends and play a real game of Family Feud on the spot, without having to come up with categories and such first, just by going outside and getting a ball.

        • Re:Activator (Score:4, Insightful)

          by SetupWeasel (54062) on Tuesday June 02, 2009 @12:33AM (#28177741) Homepage

          "Blue" ...
          "Blue!" ...
          "BLUE!" ...
          "BLOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

          Voice recognition ain't that great. Better get practicing that Midwest accent. I have great doubts that you will get the in game Richard Karn to understand "Bar Harbor" as someone from Bar Harbor would actually say it. Of course that word would have to be in the system. It will be like a text adventure where only special words get recognized. Fun!

      • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday June 01, 2009 @08:24PM (#28176039)

        No kidding. "Full-Body Controller-less Gaming" has already been invented. It's called "sport".

        Or, if you're into FPS, it's called "murderous office rampage."

      • No kidding. "Full-Body Controller-less Gaming" has already been invented. It's called "sport".

        Yeah, but the FPS games are declining in popularity.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        That game sucks.

      • Usually played by muscle heads called "jocks", that people who peruse this site would be picked last for field positions such as "left right out".

      • I do NOT want to be subjected to a controller-less FPS game, certainly not.

        Although... you'd still have a controller, it's just a wee bit different.

      • No kidding. "Full-Body Controller-less Gaming" has already been invented. It's called "sport".

        You must be that guy who wonders why treadmills were invented - after all, you can always just come run outside...

    • Re:Activator (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday June 01, 2009 @07:21PM (#28175499)

      "Everything old is new again."

      Well it isn't a surprise. A lot of these concepts are things people have wanted forever. The problem was that the technology to make them work well was prohibitively expensive if even available. The Powerglove is a good example. It was a piece of shit, but there were and are high end controllers like that which work well. It just would have been $2000 to make.

      So it is no surprise that with more advanced technology, there is a resurgence. Now that the shit actually works, people want to try it.

    • I dunno - the demo I saw - even if it was half as good its a major leap forward in motion control and capture.

    • Re:Activator (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MooseMuffin (799896) on Monday June 01, 2009 @07:58PM (#28175813)

      From purely a tech perspective, it's pretty cool. The facial recognition to login and being able to control the dashboard by waving your hands was impressive. Ultimately though, much like the Wii, I don't think this will lead to many games that will interest me. Maybe even less so than the Wii, since the wiimote at least had buttons.

    • by nametaken (610866)

      Newfangled "Activator" doohickeys... bring back my U-Force. Then maybe my laserscope.

      Oh right, then get off my lawn.

  • too much work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MooseTick (895855) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:19PM (#28174803) Homepage
    This sounds good, but not the end all. The Wii controller can make things fun, but anyone who has used it much know how tiring it can be to have to stand or use full body motions for games for an extended period. Sometimes I just want to veg out on the couch and play a game. If I have to flail my arms all over the place I'm going to often consider it more work than fun.
    • by Chabo (880571) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:23PM (#28174849) Homepage Journal

      Well, then when you feel lazy, feel free to look like a toolbox [penny-arcade.com]. ;)

    • Re:too much work (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TornCityVenz (1123185) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:25PM (#28174871) Homepage Journal
      The idea you have to get up and move...and even get tired is actually a selling point, just look at the sells of the Eyetoy for play station...or even more to the point the Wii fit. There are a lot of gamers who could stand a bit more activity, and once you get past a certain point it's just embarrassing to go to a gym..at least some can get a bit of exercise in the privacy of their own home.
      • Re:too much work (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Chabo (880571) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:39PM (#28175037) Homepage Journal

        Back when DDR first came out, one of my friends from high school bought it, and started playing it for 30-60 minutes every day.

        In about 4 months, he went from a 220-lb pudgy kid, to a 170-lb lean, muscular guy. It was hugely impressive!

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by CarpetShark (865376)

          Back when DDR first came out, one of my friends...went from a 220-lb pudgy kid, to a 170-lb lean, muscular guy. It was hugely impressive!

          Yeah, trying to make music on a RAM chip can do that to you. You should be a pal and buy him an ocarina.

        • by Trouvist (958280) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:58PM (#28175237)
          And I'm entirely certain if you had asked him to dance at Prom or Homecoming he would have started hopping up and down moving his legs back and forth to the pace of the song...
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by sponga (739683)

          Back on my old Nintendo mat we used to run miles on that thing doing the track meets and other olympic stuff.

          Forgot the name of that game, but you gotta hand it to Nintendo for the stuff they put out from the mat to the duck hunter gun to the bazooka in SNES to Wii.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by quintin3265 (1552941)
          DDR is great. I played it all the time and never understood why it became unpopular. What does Guitar Hero have that DDR did not? Especially the "cool" factor - people get amazed when you jump around and pass a song on DDR, but playing a guitar just looks.. boring.
      • Maybe it's a selling point for you, but not for me. If I want exercise I'll go exercise. When I feel like playing a video game, I don't feel like exercising. Or else I would go exercise. When I feel like playing a video game, I want to play a video game. If someone wants to play a racing game, what do you tell them? Stop being a pussy and go get in your car and drive real fast everywhere?

        • by Toonol (1057698)
          It's a selling point for me. Most forms of exercise are incredibly boring. If it can be combined with entertainment, it won't be such an inconvenience setting aside 30 minutes here and there to do it. Hell, if I'm on a streak, maybe I'll put in an hour. It's not that I hate exercise; it just takes time away from doing something interesting.
          • Mod this man up, not everyone finds sports, other forms of exercise engaging. If its not engaging you pretty much go do something else.

      • Spielberg is working with MS on this, but I think Lucas would be a better fit. I for one would LOVE a Jedi Knight-like game where you could run through forests and ruins and ships, actually running on a treadmill surface, jump using its programmed-resistance semi-trampoline qualities, jumping higher as your force powers increase and the surface resistance is lowered, etc.

        But since it's just another tool of microsoft's monopoly, I'll have to wait 'til it becomes commoditised. No worries though, logitech wi

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Locke2005 (849178)
          Sure, it would be fun... but the controller would also cost over $500 and take up half your living room. I'm not sure there is a big home market for devices like that. For arcades, the insurance and maintenance would be problematic. Hmm... a power-jump inside a planetarium-style dome with 8 RGB projectors would make a really fun game, but again -- $$$.
      • Unit sales don't automatically equal usability.

        I'd agree with that statement if not for the fact that I've got a Wii Fit board sitting in the garage gathering dust. It was fun for a week or so, but it didn't endure as an enjoyable thing to do.

        Perhaps if I was overweight I would be more motivated to use it, but it became more of a chore than fun. That's not a good indictment of a game console / hardware accessory.
      • by Draek (916851)

        Lifting weights with one hand + playing Freecell or Peggle on the other > Wii Fit. Cheaper, too, and I can always change the game to something like Sudoku or even play a movie and *still* excercise.

        Then again, considering I *have* had some sunshine during the past two weeks, I'm probably outside of the Wii Fit's market segment anyways.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Jedi Alec (258881)

          Lifting weights with one hand + playing Freecell or Peggle on the other > Wii Fit.

          Now, I don't know about you but I generally like the muscles in my body to be somewhat...balanced.

          Going through life as a skinny guy with a huuuuuuge left biceps, wonder what the ladies will think about that ;-)

    • by bughunter (10093)

      While I agree with your sentiment entirely, I wonder if you know what that sounds like to someone athletic like my wife?

      "Real sex can be fun, but anyone who has engaged in it much knows how tiring it can be to have to stand or use full body motions for an extended period to achieve orgasm. Sometimes I just want to lock myself in my office with my pr0n and rub one out. If I have to hump and thrust all over the place, I'm gonna often consider it more work than fun."

      (Sorry. I enjoy pr0n as much as the n

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        For a guy with a wife, you should be more cognizent of the fact that it is indeed desireable (on occasion) to rub one to Teens in Tight Jeans 2.

    • Dont worry, All 360's will still ship with the "veg out" controller... AKA 360 wireless controller

  • Oblig. PA (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:20PM (#28174817)
  • by BigJClark (1226554) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:23PM (#28174861)

    The full body power glove. This one isn't doomed to failure. Not at all..
  • I've seen a number of games like this, including one that came with a webcam I bought a couple of years ago. It let you "play" drums displayed on the screen by whaling about with your hands.

    • by dangitman (862676)

      whaling about with your hands

      By hunting large sea mammals with your hands? In your living room? That doesn't sound very plausible.

  • by gilesjuk (604902) <giles.jones@nOspam.zen.co.uk> on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:29PM (#28174923)

    I'm sure it will work fine for some games, that is until someone walks behind you or moves around in the background to ruin your game.

    Also, multiplayer will require a huge room and lots of sensors. But perhaps Microsoft expects people to play online, a console for people with no real friends.

    • by Leafheart (1120885) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:35PM (#28174993)

      But perhaps Microsoft expects people to play online, a console for people with no real friends.

      That's one hell of a big market there. And always go for the biggest market.

    • The camera has depth perception. So it happily will ignore anything behind you. Unless it's in your personal bubble.

      • by dangitman (862676)

        The camera has depth perception.

        I don't think the camera can actually perceive anything. It's just a passive electronic device.

    • But perhaps Microsoft expects people to play online, a console for people with no real friends.

      The Wii aside, it seems consoles are already heading in this direction. I was rather disappointed at the number of decent head-to-head or co-op games using split screen on the newer consoles. Instead, many games seem to have gone the way of one-player-per-console, playing online.

      • by coppro (1143801)
        [quote]I was rather disappointed at the number of decent head-to-head or co-op games using split screen on the newer consoles. Instead, many games seem to have gone the way of one-player-per-console, playing online.[/quote]Yes. Because when I go to a friend's house and we decide we want to play video games, I'll need to have brought a console, game, television, and all related accessories. Every bit of which my friend already has. Splitscreen is a good thing.
    • by eebra82 (907996)

      I'm sure it will work fine for some games, that is until someone walks behind you or moves around in the background to ruin your game. Also, multiplayer will require a huge room and lots of sensors. But perhaps Microsoft expects people to play online, a console for people with no real friends.

      Why are you bashing a product you haven't tried yet? I'm sure they've spent a lot of time and effort to make this work in a good way, similar to what Nintendo did with the Wiimote.

      I'll admit that I love my PlayStation 3 and I don't own an Xbox 360, but this is a very tempting product if it gets enough games to support it with.

      Last but not least, I doubt that the controller will be so unintelligent that it cannot distinguish you from other people in the background in the same way that it can tell the d

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...was that MS got Konami to make a 360 exclusive Metal Gear Solid franchise.

    http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/988/988687p1.html [ign.com]

    If /. is going to report anything about MS at E3 this was probably the biggest news at the conference.

    • by MediaStreams (1461187) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:58PM (#28175235)

      1. Kojima isn't directing the game

      2. It's not a real Metal Gear game, just an action game with Raiden

      3. It's multiplatform - PS3,PC, and Xbox 360

      Even worse, just an hour after the Microsoft press conference an interview with Kojima quoted him essentially disowning the game.

       

  • Exercise? (Score:5, Funny)

    by _Shorty-dammit (555739) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:44PM (#28175083)

    If I wanted to exercise I wouldn't be playing video games.

  • That sounds really amazingly, fantastically, wonderfully, beautifully horrible.
  • by Chris Pimlott (16212) on Monday June 01, 2009 @06:54PM (#28175193)

    Hmm...

    In one demo, a player used her arms and legs to hit balls in an attempt to destroy a brick wall, and in another game, an employee threw virtual "paint" on a canvas to create a painting, even drawing an elephant using a silhouette feature.

    Sounds great, but I'd be much more impressed if they had a live demo with random untrained people. Even in the demo video [youtube.com], you can see a noticeable input lag, particular when the guy does his "victory dance" at around 27 seconds.

    The devil is in the details with these things, Microsoft is certainly not the first to try at something like this.

  • What we really need is a gun that we could use to hunt ducks. I bet that would sell a lot more than this silly body controller....
  • by BagOBones (574735) on Monday June 01, 2009 @07:05PM (#28175321)

    Other than figuring out how much you weigh this ONE accessory seems to be able to handle the functions of the WiiMote, Nunchuck, BalanceBoard and Motion Plus, without you having to purchase 4 of each and all the batteries to run them.
    O and it ads a camera with mic / voice support. You can get a mic for the Wii now as well but I think animal crossing is the only game that supports it so far.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Are you being serious here? The Wiimote and Motion Plus? Tell me how you could possibly ever play something like Metroid Prime: Corruption on something like this, in which subtle hand movements on the order of millimeters are measured real-time with pretty incredible accuracy from 3 meters away. I 100% guarantee that this device is not capable of coming anywhere even close to that. What are you going to do, shape your hand into a pointer and speak the buttons you want to press while controlling movement on
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by iVasto (829426)
      I don't understand how the microhone operates. They show the device located directly in front of the tv, a spot where many people place their center speaker in a 5.1 set up. The game will have to completely mute the center channel in order for the microphone to work, thus making the game 2.1 (or 2.1 x2).
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) * on Monday June 01, 2009 @07:06PM (#28175331) Journal
    I did the math on this. Even if you make a full body suit capture or camera object recognition of the body it doesn't matter. Once you throw on the VR goggles, people may get into the game too much. People get hurt with the wii just moving their arms. Imagine the carnage of people jumping around with their eyes covered!
  • Presumably this was the successor to "Project Fetal"?
  • So after Bing, there is Natal. I wonder how it's going to be translated into Chinese (hint: it sounds like a part of a female body).

  • !demo (Score:3, Funny)

    by nog_lorp (896553) on Monday June 01, 2009 @07:35PM (#28175615)

    I don't know about you guys, but that looks strongly like a product of the marketing department, not a "set up the box and get a camera" style demo. Complete with cheesy clapping and cheering from the people on the couch.

    • Nah. I've played this game. I'm working on this project (thank god I can talk about it) and that's fairly accurate. They're improving the tracking on this thing on a weekly basis and it's pretty playable now. I'm not sure whether this is going to set the world on fire or not, but what you saw being played on stage is the real deal.
  • by CannonballHead (842625) on Monday June 01, 2009 @07:35PM (#28175619)

    I've waited for years for a decent swordfighting game. That doesn't have to use a keyboard or controller that's obviously not suited for actually controlling the sword movements themselves. It would be awesome to be able to simply move your arm like you would a sword... or better yet, put a sword* in your hand and use that.

    * Not sharp, of course. Think of the children.

    • by Tetsujin (103070)

      I've waited for years for a decent swordfighting game. That doesn't have to use a keyboard or controller that's obviously not suited for actually controlling the sword movements themselves.

      Here's the thing about that...

      You can sort of get that now on the Wii (we finally got our lightsaber game...), but - because of limitations in the Wii remote, it's not good at picking up subtle movements - and it can't really read position at all unless the camera in the remote can see the beacons - and even then it still needs a decent reading from the accelerometer to get its orientation in order to know whether it's upside-down and pointed above the screen, or right-side-up and pointed at it... So the a

      • Re:Swordfighting. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Garrett Fox (970174) on Monday June 01, 2009 @08:24PM (#28176041) Homepage
        Now, with a better sensor system, you have another problem - it's still just a game, the players don't really know how to sword-fight.

        I thought that increased realism was part of the point, though. I'd be interested in a swordfighting game that required learning something resembling a real-world skill, so that I'm prepared to... uh, battle skeleton warriors. More seriously, it seems like there's new gameplay to be found if I have to actually try different parries and attacks instead of just hitting Attack, or even High/Low Attack like in a Street Fighter game. If people don't really want anything resembling a realistic experience, why bother with a Wiimote-style controller at all instead of an old-fashioned controller? I guess the test of this reasoning is, would there be a market for a Guitar Hero imitator where the skills carry over somewhat to actual guitar, instead of being basically Simon with music?
        • Now, with a better sensor system, you have another problem - it's still just a game, the players don't really know how to sword-fight.

          I thought that increased realism was part of the point, though. I'd be interested in a swordfighting game that required learning something resembling a real-world skill, so that I'm prepared to... uh, battle skeleton warriors.

          What people want is the illusion of doing something they can't do. Guitar Hero is popular because it feels like you're playing a guitar even though the skills aren't really anything like what a real guitar requires. Increased realism doesn't have much to do with it - presumably if people really wanted to play guitar they'd go to a music teacher, if they really wanted to learn how to handle a sword they'd take up fencing or whatever.

          Sword-fighting is always going to be unrealistic in a game because there i

    • by Hatta (162192)

      I've waited for years for a decent swordfighting game.

      You fight like a dairy farmer!

  • by SoftwareArtist (1472499) on Monday June 01, 2009 @08:31PM (#28176089)
    There's a long history of innovative, unconventional game controllers. Most of them are nothing more than interesting historical footnotes. Few people bought them and few games used them.

    What makes the Wiimote different is that it's the standard controller for the console. It comes bundled with every single console sold. That's why game developers actually use it: they aren't restricting their market.

    If Microsoft decides to bundle this thing with every Xbox sold, then it's a big deal. If it's an optional accessory that you have to buy separately, then it's another historical footnote.
  • This innovative product could revolutionise gaming. Congratulations Microsoft, you've done it again!

    (goes back to playing with Eyetoy)

  • I really, really, really hope that a sweaty Steve Ballmer won't be the one demonstrating this technology on stage.
  • I bet they implement it in the UK first...
    "Big Brother: Remain EXACTLY where you are! Make NO move until you are ordered!
    [painting falls from wall, revealing a telescreen]
    Julia: Now they can see us...
    Big Brother: NOW WE CAN SEE YOU! Clasp your hands behind your heads! Stand out in the middle of the room! Stand back to back. Do NOT touch one another!
    Winston Smith: [hearing the helicopters approach] The house is surrounded...
    Big Brother: THE HOUSE IS SURROUNDED!
    Julia: Suppose we may as well say goodbye...
    Big

  • Microsoft Debuts Full-Body Controller-less Gaming At E3

    Yes it's called Bing and you can play with your own meat joystick:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/scienceandtechnology/technology/5423736/Microsofts-Bing-under-fire-for-porn-video-access.html [telegraph.co.uk]

  • ...the Eyetoy? Remember the Eyetoy? A little camera-based system that let you use body movements to do things? How well did that sell? Oh yeah...huh.

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