Thursday, March 4, 2010

Project Natal: Rebirth of Gaming

When the Nintendo Wii hit the shelves a few holiday seasons ago, it was mayhem on the Cabbage Patch Kid or Tickle Me Elmo stampede scale. The gaming units were sold out for months. Why did everyone flip out over a bunch of wires and chips encased in plastic? It probably had something to do with the most active controller and revolutionary gaming experience ever. However, things may come to a screeching halt for Wii sales with the advent of Xbox 360's Project Natal (not it's real name) when the 2010 Holiday season rolls around.

Last month Xbox and Edelman staged four days of previews for tastemakers, bloggers and the like in New York City. The preview event culminated in an intimate gathering at creative solutions space, EZ Studios; where it was a family affair. Liz Wasserman (LLLA), Samantha Edwards (LLNY), Wes Henstock, Sean Gallagher, Lindsey Murphy (LLNY) and Amanda Cassandra (CBS) all took part in the gaming session cum cocktail party with beats put down by DJ Gatsby. The PR strike was led by several women including two LLadies; Chrystina Woody of Edelman (LLLA) and Jessica Lange of Xbox (Portland via LLLA ).

The Xbox 360's new peripheral is poised to shake up gaming and possibly the world. When Project Natal was unveiled at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (F.K.A. E3 Expo) last summer, jaws dropped. Sure, there are naysayers who accuse Microsoft of stealing the idea from Sony and Nintendo. However, Microsoft has made leaps and bounds in terms of motion sensitive gaming. While Sony PlayStation's EyeToy is crude at best and the Wii still relies on controllers (or implements such as a balance board for games like Wii Fit), Xbox has made the controller obsolete. Project Natal is controlled solely by one's body and voice. Xbox has come a long way baby!

When I took my hand at playing Ricochet, I was pretty impressed. The combination of an infrared and monochrome sensor allows the device to see in 3-D. Therefore, my body was allowed a full range of motion. I flung my hands in the air, kicked up my heels and even got some head butting and hip thrusting in -- it was definitely a workout. Project Natal captures the tiniest nuances too. To my surprise, I bent down to scratch my knee and caught my avatar doing the same thing out of the corner of my eye. I was freaked out and wowed at the same time!

Erin Hofto from Xbox's PR team took a moment from being interviewed by several media outlets to speak with me about Project Natal. We discussed the impact the new device would have not only in terms of gaming but culture and industry. I was particularly interested in what Project Natal would mean for women. For the longest time the fairer sex has been ignored by the gaming and tech industry as a whole. However, Project Natal promises new adventures due to its lack of a controller. Not to mention, you'll be able to get in your daily dose of cardio while playing. Hofto stated that Xbox has delivered software to multiple developers which means there will be more robust options as Project Natal evolves and the final product is released. Project Natal doesn't stop at "putting your back into it." The device can be used to thumb through films, videos and games à la the iPhone but doesn't require you to touch a thing. Voice and facial recognition features are being worked out too. Project Natal definitely lets your mind run wild. The medical and fashion sectors have reached out to Xbox about Project Natal. Something tells me other industries will come running in no time. If Xbox plays it right, Project Natal will revolutionize not just the way we play games but the way we see, move and communicate. Perhaps feel too?

Play the video below to explore actress, comedienne and gamer Aisha Tyler's what if scenario.

Photographs by Samantha Edwards & KK Graham

No comments: