Project Natal: Wikis


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The Project Natal sensor device

Project Natal (pronounced [naˈtal], nah-tahl) is the code name for a "controller-free gaming and entertainment experience" by Microsoft for the Xbox 360 video game platform. Based on an add-on peripheral for the Xbox 360 console, it enables users to control and interact with the Xbox 360 without the need to touch a game controller through a natural user interface using gestures, spoken commands,[1] or presented objects and images. The project is aimed at broadening the Xbox 360's audience beyond its typical gamer base.[2]

Project Natal was first announced on June 1, 2009 at E3 2009. Microsoft said that over a thousand software development kits began shipping to game developers that same day.[2] It is scheduled to be released in time for Christmas 2010.[3] Pricing has not been released yet.

Project Natal will reportedly also serve as the basis for a "new" Xbox 360. Though it is rumored that the launch of it will be accompanied with the release of a new Xbox 360 console (as either a new retail configuration,[4][5] a significant design revision,[6] and/or a modest hardware upgrade[7]), Microsoft has dismissed the reports in public, and has repeatedly emphasized that it will be fully compatible with all Xbox 360 consoles. Microsoft indicates that it considers it to be a significant initiative, as fundamental to the Xbox brand as Xbox Live,[8] and with a launch akin to that of a new Xbox console platform.[9] Project Natal has even been referred to as a "new Xbox" by Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer at a speech for the Executives' Club of Chicago.[10][11] When asked if the introduction will extend the time before the next-generation console platform is launched (historically about 5 years between platforms),[12] Microsoft corporate vice president Shane Kim reaffirmed that the company believes that the life cycle of the Xbox 360 will last through 2015 (10 years).[8]



The Project Natal sensor[1] is an approximately 9-inch (23 cm) wide horizontal bar.

The depth sensor consists of an infrared projector combined with a monochrome CMOS sensor, and allows the Project Natal sensor to see in 3D under any ambient light conditions.[1][13] The sensing range of the depth sensor is adjustable, with the Project Natal software capable of automatically calibrating the sensor based on gameplay and the player's physical environment, such as the presence of chairs.[14]

Project Natal is likely based on software technology developed internally by Microsoft and 3D camera technology by Israeli developer Prime Sense, which interprets 3D scene information from a continuous infrared pattern.[15][16] It was initially reported that the hardware was acquired from time-of-flight camera developer 3DV Systems.[17][8][18][19][20][21] However, this was dismissed by comments from Alex Kipman, Natal's lead developer, who stated "Our IR does not pulse and it is not based on a TOF system."[22]

Described by Microsoft personnel as the primary innovation of Project Natal,[23][8][21][24] the software technology enables advanced gesture recognition, facial recognition, and voice recognition.[19] The skeletal mapping technology shown at E3 2009 was capable of simultaneously tracking up to four users for motion analysis,[8][13][19][25] with a feature extraction of 48 skeletal points on a human body at a frame rate of 30 hertz.[14][25] Depending on the person's distance from the sensor, Project Natal is capable of tracking models that can identify individual fingers.[13][19]


Three technical demos were shown to showcase Project Natal when it was revealed at Microsoft's E3 2009 Media Briefing:[26]

  • Ricochet – a Breakout-like game in which the entire body is used to bounce balls at blocks.
  • Paint Party – where the player can make throwing motions to splash or draw with paint onto a wall. He/she can choose colors using speech recognition, and can pose to make stencils.
  • Milo and Kate – a full game in development by Lionhead Studios[27] in which the player interacts with a young child (Milo or Milly, selected by the user at the start) and his/her dog Kate by performing real-life actions. Interaction was demonstrated only with Milo at this event.[28]

A demo based on Burnout Paradise has also been shown outside of Microsoft's media briefing, which allows the player to use an invisible steering wheel to control the vehicle. At the Tokyo Game Show 2009, further demos involving adaptations of Beautiful Katamari and Space Invaders Extreme have also been shown. Project team members have been experimentally adapting numerous games to Project Natal-based control schemes to help evaluate usability.[29] According to creative director Kudo Tsunoda, the addition of Project Natal-based control to games through software updates is not likely, given the significant code alterations involved.[30]

As of September 2009, publishers actively working on games for Project Natal account for over 70 percent of third-party software sales for the current generation of video game consoles.[31] Games indicated to include Project Natal functionality include EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis[32] and Fable III.[33]

Although the sensor bar was originally planned to contain hardware that would process such elements as the bone system used to map player actions, this idea was later dropped in favour of a software solution owing to a desire to reduce Natal's price point.[34] Subsequently, processing that was originally intended to be done on this hardware will now be handled by the Xbox 360 console, resulting in an estimated usage of 10 to 15% of the Xbox 360's computing resources for Natal-related processing.[35] Several commentators believe this will mean patching older games to use Natal will be unlikely, with Natal-specific concepts instead likely to be the focus for developers using the platform.[34]

Code name

The name Project Natal follows in Microsoft's tradition of using cities as code names.[1] Microsoft director Alex Kipman, who incubated the project,[25] chose to name it after the Brazilian city of Natal, as a tribute to his country of origin[1] and because the word natal means "of or relating to birth", reflecting Microsoft's view of the project as "the birth of the next generation of home entertainment".[8]

Nintendo rejection

Nintendo was offered the chance to retain the technology that will end up powering Microsoft's Project Natal, but denied the opportunity.

Quoted at, the source said the Israeli company with a professor by the name of Zack Rosenberg told reporters that he invented the 3D camera-powered motion recognition system and demonstrated it to Nintendo executives (including Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata) in 2007. Iwata was reportedly impressed, but turned it down, only for Microsoft to snag it the following year.

"3DV showed off a camera that detected motion in 3D, and had voice recognition," the unnamed source told CVG. "But Iwata-san was unconvinced he could sell it at a Nintendo price point. He also had some worries around latency during gameplay... I've heard Iwata describe the prototype he saw at length, and it's definitely Natal."[36]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e ""Project Natal" 101". Microsoft. 2009-06-01. Archived from the original on 2009-06-01. Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  2. ^ a b Pham, Alex (2009-06-01). "E3: Microsoft shows off gesture control technology for Xbox 360". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-06-01. "The effort aims to attract a broader audience to Microsoft's console. Most of the 30 million Xbox 360s sold since November 2005 have been snapped up by avid young males drawn to complex shooter or adventure games such as Halo and Gears of War or R.P.Gs" 
  3. ^ Project Natal Coming Holiday 2010
  4. ^ French, Michael (11 November 2009). "Natal launch details leak from secret Microsoft tour". MCV. Intent Media. Retrieved 11 November 2009. "November 2010 release, 5m units global ship, 14 games, and super-low sub-£50 price [...] Microsoft is planning to manufacture 5m units for day one release, with a mix of console and camera plus solus SKUs expected. [...] The device should cost under £10,000 when sold solo. [...] Another even says the camera could even retail for just £30." 
  5. ^ Channell, Mike (2009-10-03) "Mark Rein Interview" Xbox 360: The Official Xbox Magazine Future Publishing Retrieved 2009-10-11 "And you know, I think they said they were going to ship Natal with every Xbox when they actually launch the thing, so everybody will have one." 
  6. ^ Brightman, James (21 August 2009). "Xbox 360 Slim? Analysts Weigh In". IndustryGamers. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 2 September 2009. 
  7. ^ Kennedy, Sam (2009-06-12). "Rumor: Xbox Natal is Actually Microsoft's Next Console". UGO Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-06-19. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Takahashi, Dean (2009-06-02). "Microsoft games exec details how Project Natal was born". VentureBeat. Retrieved 2009-06-06. "The companies are doing a lot of great work with the cameras. But the magic is in the software. It’s a combination of partners and our own software." 
  9. ^ Graft, Kris; Sheffield, Brandon (2009-06-16). "Microsoft's Future Begins Now: Shane Kim Speaks". Gamasutra. Think Services. pp. 3. Retrieved 2009-06-20. 
  10. ^ Gruener, Wolfgang (2009), "Ballmer announces 2010 Xbox 360 at The Executive Club Chicago", TG Daily (Chicago: Tigervision Media), 2009-06-19,, retrieved 2009-06-19, "I am talking about the Global Leaders luncheon with Steve Ballmer yesterday in Chicago, during which the executive announced 'a new Xbox for 2010.' [...] I triple-checked with a few friends who were sitting in the audience as well and it seemed pretty clear to them that a new Xbox is coming in 2010, after what Ballmer had said." 
  11. ^ Reilly, Jim (2009-06-19). "Ballmer Clarifies His 'New' Xbox 360 Comment". IGN. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-06-21. "I confused the issue with my poorly chosen words. There is no news in my comments. Things are as reported after E3. Sorry." 
  12. ^ "Generation When?". Edge Online. Future plc. 2009-06-18. pp. 2. Retrieved 2009-06-22. "Since the NES, every five years or so a distinct new wave of technology has washed across the industry, bringing with it new power and functions to a market galvanised by the promise of faster, better, more." 
  13. ^ a b c Totilo, Stephen (2009-06-05). "Microsoft: Project Natal Can Support Multiple Players, See Fingers". Kotaku. Gawker Media. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  14. ^ a b Wilson, Mark; Buchanan, Matt (2009-06-03). "Testing Project Natal: We Touched the Intangible". Gizmodo. Gawker Media. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  15. ^ Takahashi, Dean (2009-09-05), "How many vendors does it take to make Microsoft’s Project Natal game control system?", Venture Beat,, retrieved 2010-1-8 
  16. ^ Reference Design,, retrieved 2010-1-8 
  17. ^ Edwards, Cliff (2009-06-01). "Microsoft Moves onto Nintendo's Motion Turf". BusinessWeek. McGraw-Hill. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 2009-06-02. "The Redmond (Wash.) software giant melded technology from its recent purchase of camera maker 3DV Systems with its own research into the use of natural gestures and language to change how people interact with machines." 
  18. ^ Takahashi, Dean (2009-05-29). "Peeling back another layer of detail on Microsoft’s secret gesture-control system for games". VentureBeat. Retrieved 2009-06-15. "Microsoft had an internal team try to come up with its own solution, but it chose not to launch that solution." 
  19. ^ a b c d Dudley, Brier (2009-06-03). "E3: New info on Microsoft's Natal -- how it works, multiplayer and PC versions". Brier Dudley's Blog. The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-06-03. "We actually built a software platform that was what we wanted to have as content creators. And then [asked], 'OK, are there hardware solutions out there that plug in?' But the amount of software and the quality of software are really the innovation in Natal." 
  20. ^ Wingfield, Nick (2009-05-13), "Microsoft Swings at Wii With Videocam", The Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones & Company): B1, ISSN 0099-9660, OCLC 4299067,, retrieved 2009-06-02 
  21. ^ a b Bramwell, Tom (2009-06-03). "E3: MS execs: Natal not derived from 3DV". Eurogamer. Eurogamer Network. Retrieved 2009-06-05. 
  22. ^ Barras, Colin (2010-01-07), "Microsoft's body-sensing, button-busting controller", NewScientist: CommentsPage2,, retrieved 2010-1-8 
  23. ^ "Project Natal in detail". Microsoft. 5 June 2009. Retrieved 24 November 2009. "Proprietary software at the heart of "Project Natal" is what makes the magic possible. This is what distances "Project Natal" from any other technology on the market..." 
  24. ^ Lee, Johnny (2009-06-01). "Project Natal". Procrastineering. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  25. ^ a b c Gibson, Ellie (2009-06-05). "E3: Post-Natal Discussion". Eurogamer. Eurogamer Network. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 2009-06-09. "Essentially we do a 3D body scan of you. We graph 48 joints in your body and then those 48 joints are tracked in real-time, at 30 frames per second. So several for your head, shoulders, elbows, hands, feet..." 
  26. ^ "E3 2009: Microsoft Press Conference Live Blog". IGN. 2009-06-01. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  27. ^ Wiltshire, Alex (2009-06-03). "Interview: Peter Molyneux on Milo And Kate". Edge Online. Future Publishing. Retrieved 2009-06-05. 
  28. ^ Gibson, Ellie (2009-06-02). "E3: Molyneux and Milo". Eurogamer. Eurogamer Network. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 2009-06-02. 
  29. ^ Crecente, Brian (25 September 2009). "Playing Space Invaders, Katamari Damacy on Natal". Kotaku. Gawker Media. Retrieved 26 September 2009. 
  30. ^ Chester, Nick (25 September 2009). "TGS 09: Patching older 360 games to work with Natal not possible". Destructoid. Retrieved 26 September 2009. 
  31. ^ "Xbox 360’s “Project Natal” Awakens Imagination of Global Video-Game Industry". Microsoft. 24 September 2009. Retrieved 4 November 2009. 
  32. ^ Garratt, Patrick (15 September 2009). "Moore – 360 and PS3 Grand Slam Tennis will be released, will use motion tech". VG247. 
  33. ^ McWhertor, Michael (21 October 2009). "Molyneux: Fable III Will Use Project Natal". Kotaku. 
  34. ^ a b "Microsoft drops internal Natal chip". 
  35. ^ "Natal to use 10-15 percent of Xbox 360 CPU power". 
  36. ^

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