Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Microsoft Part 2: Technological Transgressions

Aside from a metric ass-tonne of game announcements, Microsoft also strutted their software integration stuff and revealed a whole bunch of new innovations for the LIVE interface ranging from Twitter to a full body motion sensor.

In addition to Net Flix, Microsoft announced that they are proud to present the incorporation of Facebook and Twitter to X Box LIVE, adding unique social networking to those who aren’t that socially adept anyways. Adding the ability to Tweet and check your Facebook is a natural evolution for Microsoft’s online service; most people are already Tweeting to their LIVE friends anyways. If only the Zune had something to do with all this on the go status extravaganza.

Last.fm and SKY were also announced as partners in the newest LIVE venture, so you can listen to music through your X Box, and catch football matches with SKY in the UK. Neat stuff that comes packaged for Gold users, so you won’t have to pay an additional fee.

Finally, Microsoft brought out the proverbial big guns for their final announcement. Venerable director Steven Spielberg to the stage to talk about Project Natal, Microsoft’s answer to motion control; but this isn’t about waving a dongle around, oh no. Natal is a full-body motion detector with included voice and facial recognition software. Much like Tony Hawk’s ride board will let you translate your body movements into on-screen action, Natal does much the same thing without the need for any peripheral besides a small-ish sensor that gets attached to your X Box.

This thing is seriously impressive. Like I mentioned above, Natal appears to need nothing more than a sensor mounted in front of your TV. It reads your body movements, and translates them smoothly onto the screen. This will have a lot of interesting applications for games that require a bit more physicality than your standard video game fare. Games usually require an extra peripheral for things beyond button inputs, like Tony Hawk Ride or Wii Fit. If Natal is a success, then not only will the number of plastic play-things in your average gamer’s house reduce, but it may bring additional customers into the fold, those who are intimidated by the average gamepad.

I’m sure that Natal is a while away from being a fully realised product, but it seems to be heading in the right direction. Only time will tell for this new innovation, but for now, I’ll stick with my controller.

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