Microsoft’s plans to use Project Natal for more than just Xbox 360 gaming were clear from the start; Bill Gates spared little time before confirming that the Windows team was already eyeing up the motion-tracking hardware for their own purposes. Its taken a while, however, before they’ve told us exactly how else Natal might integrate with our lives outside of game-play. According to Marc Whitten, general manager of the Xbox 360 team at Microsoft, Project Natal is “about all living room experiences,” down to tracking your favorite sports teams based on what jersey you’re wearing or which referee decisions you’re boo’ing.
“Natal isn’t just about gaming — it’s about all living-room experiences. Imagine a sporting event — Natal could know which team you’re for because it sees your jersey, or knows you thought a bad call was made when you yell ‘boo.’ It learns about you and gets smarter to create a more tailored entertainment experience” Marc Whitten, general manager Xbox 360 team, Microsoft
Once it can track you, Project Natal can help build up a profile of what you’re interested in (and, perhaps more importantly, what you’re not interested in). On an Windows Media Center HTPC, for instance, the system could recognize that you follow certain sports teams, and thus pre-emptively record not only games in which they’re playing but documentaries about them or other related content. We’re thinking of a system like TiVo’s thumbs-up/thumbs-down buttons, but based on your physical response rather than you manually having to rate things.
“If you counted the number of buttons in your living room,” Whitten reckons, “it would send a chill down your spine.” Intuitive gestures for navigation and control seem the tip of the iceberg; still, we’ll have to wait until Project Natal gets its official premiere on June 13th to find out more.