Microsoft announced that Kinect (Project Natal), its controller-free, motion-sensing device for Xbox 360, launches worldwide this holiday season, starting in North America on November 4th.
At its E3 press conference today, the platform holder demonstrated several of Kinect's 15 planned launch titles, as well as the accessory's capabilities -- like navigating the Xbox dashboard via gesture recognition, and navigating Zune movies forward and backward with hand movements.
In addition, voice recognition using Kinect means that commands such as 'Xbox Pause' and 'Xbox Play' will "make entertainment controller free" for apps like Last.fm, Facebook, Netflix and more.
Microsoft also gave E3 attendees a preview of Videokinect, which allows users to collectively watch videos from Bing.com with their video chat partners.
In addition, Kinect's face and body recognition allows for auto-pan, to keep the subject of users' video chat on screen, without headsets. The company intends to make chat compatible across Microsoft's Live Messenger network.
Microsoft then announced a collaboration with ESPN, bringing over 3500 sporting events in the first year, from college football through basketball to soccer and beyond, both live and on demand -- and free to all Xbox 360 Gold members.
Kinect support is built into the ESPN feature, so users can pause and replay segments via voice commands, and even verbally answer trivia and other onscreen questions while watching ESPN titles.
Microsoft's Kudo Tsunoda then introduced Kinectimals
, a virtual pet title featuring a tiger and other exotic felines, making heavy use of motion controls to pet, interact with, and provide jump-rope practice for your pet.
A duo from Rare followed up with a demonstration of Kinect Sports
, a Wii Sports
-style title from the UK developer that includes a collection of sports games such as soccer, athletics, bowling, table tennis, volleyball, and more.
Next up is Kinect Joy Ride
, from Bigpark Studios in Vancouver, with the now Kinect exclusive using motion controls for steering, spectacular jumps, and aerial acrobatics.
is another title demonstrated for the add-on, showcasing an active body-specific level where the players have to pose and jump to collect in-game tokens. The game includes a river-rafting experience, with two players controlling the characters navigating the river.
Microsoft then brought out its third-party Kinect gamest, with Ubisoft presenting a trailer for a fitness-specific title, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved
. A demonstration for the exercise title showcased the potency of the 3D depth recognition for the title, with a full silhouette of the player appearing in the game at all times.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved
's demonstration also showed a variety of personal training and exercise options, even virtual kickboxing, with the player's silhouette kicking blocks to a remarkable degree of accuracy.
Next up, Harmonix brought out their Kinect exclusive Dance Central
, with a spirited performance of Bel Biv Devoe's Poison, showcasing impressive 3D motion detection that follows the dancer's movements and poses.
This was followed by the developer's Alex Rigopulos discussing why this is the first dance-based title the Rock Band
creator has worked on -- the exactitude of Kinect makes it possible.
Phil Spencer then returned to the stage to introduce a Microsoft Game Studios and LucasArts co-produced Star Wars game exclusively for Kinect coming in 2011, including a trailer with a Darth Vader appearance at the end.
As the Xbox 360's fifth year on the market approaches, Microsoft intends to release the Kinect as its platform's answer to the Wii own motion control setup and the PS3's upcoming Move solution, both of which utilize wireless controllers.