LOS ANGELES--After more than a year of speculation, we finally know what Microsoft's new motion-control system is called. For those that have referred to it for a year as Project Natal, meet Kinect for Xbox 360.
On Sunday night, at the University of Southern California's Galen Center here, and during a special performance by Cirque du Soleil, Microsoft finally and formally pulled back the wraps on its much-anticipated system, now known as Kinect, but originally the work of the Israeli company 3DV.
After sitting through (actually standing, as the press was placed on the floor of the arena for a couple of hours with no seats) the performance, in which the Cirque's performers acted out and demonstrated a number of ways that Kinect can be used, my first impression is that Microsoft has hit on something with some serious potential. But at least as demonstrated Sunday, that potential hasn't been fully realized.
It was tempting to think that Microsoft was taking Kinect a little too seriously during the performance, given the scale and scope of the event (more on that in a bit), but it's clear that the company has a system on its hands that it plans to incorporate widely across its video gaming and digital living room environments.
And while it's too soon to tell exactly how Kinect will be used, and what software is being developed for it--Microsoft will say a lot more Monday morning at its formal E3 press conference--one thing became clear Sunday night: with Kinect, and a sports game, and an exercise game for it, Microsoft is, among other things, putting Nintendo and its Wii, its Balance Board, its Wii Fit and Wii Sports squarely in its sights.