Microsoft tricked us by revealing its 3D motion-sensing camera at E3. At the game industry’s biggest trade show, we all assumed Project Natal would be a console peripheral for gaming, but Bill Gates says the camera will have other uses in Windows.
As part of a lengthy interview with CNet, the Microsoft chairman said Project Natal is not just for games, “but for media consumption as a whole, and even if they connect it up to Windows PCs for interacting in terms of meetings, and collaboration, and communication.”
Gates stayed pretty vague when describing how Natal might be used away from the Xbox 360. He noted that motion control could come in handy when managing movies, music and “home system type stuff.” He also said “there’s incredible value as we use [Natal] in the office connected to a Windows PC,” but the rest is left to imagination.
It’s easy to see some common ground with the Xbox 360 and Windows PCs. The obvious use is gaming, but one of the things shown during Natal’s E3 demonstration was motion-controlled menus. Instead of using a joystick or remote control, the demonstrator moved through the Xbox 360 dashboard by flicking his hand in the air. That functionality might be useful for PC entertainment hubs, so maybe Natal will be integrated with Windows Media Center.
Beyond that, I’m at a loss for ideas. The key to Natal is that it senses three axes instead of two, but what office uses or collaborations would take advantage of that? Are we looking at a reinvention of the wheel, or just tacky gimmicks? Natal is an exciting prospect for gaming and entertainment, but I fail to see how it’ll work as an office tool. It could fail miserably in that regard if it doesn’t change everything.