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Microsoft Unveils Hands-Free Controller To Public

August 21, 2009

Microsoft’s revolutionary hands-free controller technology made its first public debut Friday at the “gamescom” convention in Germany.

Microsoft’s project “Natal” is a hands-free controller that consists of a microphone as well as visual and infrared cameras for the Xbox 360.

Natal first appeared at the E3 Expo in June, but it was only previewed and members of the public audience were not permitted to test it out.

“The current controller is a barrier to some people using our console,” Kudo Tsunoda, Xbox 360′s general manager and creative director of Natal, told BBC News.

“To many users, the vast array of buttons and analogue sticks is plain confusing.”

Natal works by calibrating itself to the room’s temperature and seeking out warm human bodies in the room. The camera takes note of his or her shape and creates a profile for each player.

The system notes 48 points on a person’s body, including hands, legs, feet and head. It uses this information to create a virtual onscreen character.

The camera will also adapt to changing shapes of players, such as young children, said Tsunoda.

“If you take a young child, they grow at quite a fast rate,” he said.

“However, these changes over days or weeks are slight. So if there are small day-to-day changes, Natal will recognize that and update your profile.”

Microsoft showed off two new demos that support Natal technology. One game allows users to drive by putting one foot in front of the other to simulate stepping on the gas pedal while placing their hands on an imaginary steering wheel to control the car.

The other Natal demo is basically a virtual dodgeball game that allows users to kick, slap, or headbutt oncoming balls.

“Clothes, people, size, lighting – we’re making Natal so it will work in all conditions,” said Tsunoda.

“And, yes, you can even log in and play Natal in the dark.”

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