Today, I saw the live broadcast of the demo of the new XBox interface (project “Natal”) at E3 conference. It stunned me! This is a groundbreaking event in the interface design and can be compared to the mouse invention (but it goes much much further). Microsoft did something revolutionary!
This new interface is based on video cameras that watch your movements, calculate positioning of your body and then translate it to the movements of your avatar in a game. Also, it includes speech recognition, facial recognition and probably a set of other features. They demoed sport games where you control your avatar by literally moving in front of a TV and it does exactly what you do (kicks balls, move legs up and down, etc.). It is much better than Wii, since you actually don’t need any device/controller. Your body controls your avatar in the game.
These demos were pretty impressive and showed that MS just outdid everyone else in this space (I think competition will have big problems catching up), BUT it got even better! Lionhead founder Peter Molyneux kicked off another demo where a woman was interacting with a virtual boy. It looked like a very real conversation where the virtual boy actually knew where the woman was and was talking to her and not to the space like in today’s games. At some point, the woman drew a picture and gave it to the boy (gave it to the front camera) and the boy took a virtual piece of paper with THIS picture on it! The other interesting thing was when the woman was making patterns on the water and you could see her reflected image on it. Oh yeah, and they were also talking in plain English. It seems like speech recognition also works really well.