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Microsoft's Project Natal?

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Platform(s): Xbox 360  
Articles: Polls  

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Project Natal

This is one of those technologies that looks like it has great potential. The tech demo at E3 was certainly iimpressive. As an engineer involved in operator control design for construction machinery, my first thoughts are, "boy, what are the possibilities, both for gaming and other applications?"

I can't help but thinking, however, that this type of control will be applied to niche applications at best. I see gross body motion (in the sense of lacking fine distinctions or detail) controlling gross gaming movements. Which is fine, but what about interactions that require finer modulation, smaller body movements, or tactile feedback? One can argue that that type of application is not what Natal is designed for, which is also fine, but that nagates talk about this technology replacing conventional controls.

In my job, our machine operators tell us that feedback from the object they are controlling is critical in many cases. As we migrated from mechanical controls with hard linkages connected to hydraulic valves to fly-by-wire controls, operators indicated they felt a loss of 'connection to the machine'.

Conventional gaming controls provide tactile feedback. Audio and visual feedback is provided by the television. Natal removes the tactile element. We all know the fuss that was made when Sony manufactured controllers without rumble for a while. I think the same loss will be felt with games that use Natal exclusively. A combination of conventional and Natal tech, however, is intriguing. An FPS that uses a prop gun for vibration feedback, and includes some conventional controls for the trigger and other small motion inputs, but relies on Natal for aiming, reloading (grabbing an imaginary ammo clip from your belt and jamming it into the gun, for example) and other gross motion, would be interesting to explore. I'm on the fence about whether controlling the character's movement over large areas is best left for conventional or Natal-style control. I don't feel like walking in place for any length of time is a suitable solution.

I voted Yawn in the poll. If there was a 'wait and see' poll option, I would have picked that one. I predict (not that I'm any kind of prognosticator) that Natal technology will be a supplemental control mechanism whose acceptance will ultimately depend on how well it is integrated into the existing overall control scheme.

*Yawn* (sorta)

I think that poll was in bad need of a third option!

It could be cool--if they could do a Bushido Blade-style game that didn't suck I'd be all for it.

I agree with Toddard along the lines of people needing a sense of connection to whatever they're controlling. I can see the frustration that will result when a player inadvertently steps "out of bounds" making their action go unrecognized.

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