Home > Gaming, IT Perspectives > Project Natal Overshooting the Target

Project Natal Overshooting the Target

image5056509g

Director Steven Spielberg on stage during the press briefing to praise Microsoft's approach to the mainstream audience with Project Natal. (Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

Microsoft’s large announcement at E3 this year was the development into Project Natal, their full body movement and gesture detection system.  The allure of the system is that you don’t need a controller at all to enjoy motion sensitive games and architectures.   Obviously taking a stab at the under-estimated market segment that Nintendo tapped into with the Wii, the system certainly moves the bar higher than ever before.  The question is whether or not it will hit the market segment they were shooting for, and whether or not they have anything to offer the core gaming community.

There is a large distinction between the core gaming community and what the Wii has created as a community.  While the rest of the manufacturers were busy trying to develop a platform that would make gamers happier, Nintendo when and focused on all of those people who weren’t playing at all.

Here is where the concept of Microsoft jumping into the motion control segment starts to fall apart.  Unless Project Natal becomes part of an off shelf Xbox system, it will forever be seen as a peripheral to an existing game console.  It will be the PowerGlove of the modern day system and it will not compel people to purchase the system, not really understanding how they get the motion feature added on.

Knowing Microsoft has the eyes and ears of the gaming community, there is a longer list of challenges that Microsoft will have in order to attract the core gamers.

Exercise

There is misconception that gamers want to exercise.  If I wanted to play soccer, I would go outside and play soccer.  If I want to get together with my friends online and play soccer with my friends for a few hours, I do not want to have to exhaust my energy to do so.  Obviously there are some exceptions out there, but the attraction of gaming is mental exercise and not the physical one.

Accuracy

I realize we have only seen a few videos, and there is a lot left to the imagination before passing judgment.  However if I make the gesture and the console doesn’t record the action fast enough, we are going to have issues.  If I repeat the action yet some how miss objective, get shot, fall off a cliff, or anything else to cause failure in my game play, this system will be never be utilized again.

Reaction Time

Because the games are going to have somewhat of a visual buffer to to protect around problems anticipating the accuracy, they are going to be slower.  They have to accommodate  uncomfortable pauses right before key actions and gamers will find themselves adjusting their strategy to accommodate the speed.

Ergonomics

I am sure a certain amount of programming has to go on yet before they are comfortable tracking every gesture.  The problem is the shape and design of the people on the planet are different.  How will this system react to the 6 year old versus the 20 year old, not only in actions but in facial gestures, etc.

Environment

The technology driving the actions are surrounding a monochrome camera, acting as an infrared sensor to record depth and motion.  It even identifies the different actions being performed.  How does it react to more light in the room, or outside?  How does it react to a baggy set of clothing, where the system might not be able to differentiate the joints in the body?   I realize they probably put a lot of effort into making this work, but there are too many variables to not expect some major hiccups.

What I would want to see out of this system is a complete interactive environment, not for gaming, but for an interface to access the internet, and for home automation control.  They are reaching that futuristic interface design that we saw in Minority Report, which set a visual representation of how we will be able to interact with an interface.  I am just not ready for it to be a game, but want it to be more. Time will only tell if this redefines anything, or goes to the closet of innovative ideas that were too early.

Categories: Gaming, IT Perspectives Tags: