June 3, 2009
If you’ve already seen the Natal demonstration from E3 you may be wondering what it has to do with home theater. If you haven’t seen it, run (do not walk) to this video and watch it from start to finish; be sure to see Peter Molyneux’s “Milo” demonstration as well. I’ll wait right here, I promise. Ok, what did you think, were you blown away like I was?
If you weren’t intrigued by the time the Kung-Fu demonstration was over in the first video, I honestly don’t know what to say, but of course it doesn’t end there. The demonstration goes on to full motion capture and control, real-time image scanning/importing, and even facial recognition. Remember we’re talking about a Xbox360 add-on that’s expected in a matter of months, not a early mock-up (there are multiple accounts of non-insiders using the product from E3) or something planned for a few years down the road.
So again, what does Natal have to do with home theater? A better question might be, what doesn’t it have to do with home theater? Look past the gaming applications and think about the core technologies, voice recognition, this ones simple, “start movie”, “dim lights”, “next video”, so on and so on.
The motion capture/recognition could again be used to trigger shuttle-commands and launch different files but it could also be used for something as simple as dimming the lights 30 minutes after the last motion was detected in the room.
The facial recognition stuff really got me to thinking about home automation. Back in the olden days, we programmed our touch panels with user shortcuts so that when dad was using the remote his music playlist was featured, not moms. With facial recognition the panel already knows who’s in control before the first button is pushed. But even simpler than that, what about security system integration? Natal compatible (or similar*) security systems could disarm your alarm before you reached the doorstep. *Facial recognition isn’t new, but it is at these price points.
Even more important than the tech demonstrated at E3 is the fact that, for once, something this cool will get launched on the back of something millions of people already use and, in-turn, will get even more exposure. That’s the really neat part. The technology will get an instant audience in the form of some of the most rabid tech junkies imaginable. Yeah, Natal was neat and I’m certainly looking forward to gaming with it but I’m really looking a year, three years, or more down the road where similar technologies have all but replaced input devices altogether. (Except my keyboard and mouse… not willing to let them go just yet)