This week at E3 Microsoft(MS) have indeed shaken up the world of gaming with the announcement of Project Natal.
Whereas Nintendo are committed to making the Wiimote more accurate and Sony only showed a very early tech demo of their motion controller, MS stepped up to the plate and wowed the world with a fully functional, full body motion controller which has both facial and voice recognition built in and is completely controller-free.
Post E3 press conference MS were showing Natal working perfectly with Burnout and by all accounts it performed well, so the technology works and is shipping to developers as we speak. So I think it is safe to say that MS are a lot further down the line to releasing Natal than Sony are their motion controllers.
But what is interesting me, is what MS have been keeping quiet about Project Natal.
The following is a quote by Shane Kim from an interview with Venture Beat. It was in response to a question about the release date of Project Natal
“We are saying it’s not going to be 2009. We have put the technology in the developers’ hands. But the spring of 2010 is very aggressive. Sony has made other promises before. We’ll see if this one comes true. Not only do you have to get the technology right, you have to have third parties supporting it and great first-party software. We showed demos yesterday and we have a lot of work being done at Microsoft Game Studios that we haven’t shown yet.”
Now you could say obviously they are working on games that have not been announced yet, but take this seemingly throw away comment with another snippet of news that came out yesterday and all of a sudden you have something much, much bigger.
“What the hell are you talking about?”, you might ask.
Let me explain: yesterday Jonny Chung Lee announced that he has been working on Project Natal. This is of interest because he is the guy who has a YouTube video showing how to use the Wiimote to create 3D on your television.
This is a quote from his blog–
“At times, working on this project has felt like a miniature “Manhattan project” with developers and researchers from around the world to coming together to make this happen.
We would all love to one day have our own personal holodeck. This is a pretty measurable step in that direction.”
That sort of quote sounds like Jonny has been working on something very big indeed. Not just motion control.
Now I am taking a leap of faith here, but I am guessing that one of the things MS have not shown yet with Project Natal is that they already have 3D running on the Xbox using Natal, without 3D glasses.
Think about it, Natal could easily track the position of the gamers head and recreate the effect shown in Jonny Lees’s video(please watch the video!). Not only that, but why is the guy famous for showing us how to create 3D on a TV screen working on the project?
How cool would it be to play MW2 with Natal working in the background so everything is in true 3D, you could lean round corners to take a peek before making a run for the next cover point, all in glorious 3D?
Jonny also mentions the holodeck, so I am also guessing that MS already have some software running with the user in a virtual 3D world.
Obviously programming a game in 3D is going to take a lot of work and I would guess that is why MS are keeping quiet right now. Plus why use up all their golden bullets in one round of shots?
I would not be at all surprised if they dropped another bombshell on the gaming world sometime towards the end of this year.
I may be adding two plus two and getting six, but I don’t think so.
Look out for the headline “MS announce 3D gaming for the Xbox” sometime before Christmas
Thanks to Aztec for his help on this piece.