Why would Natal need a motor and tilt?

Photos havebeen leakedof a prototype version of Project Natal - and they show a previously unknown feature. The Natal unit itself will feature a motorised tilt mechanism. But what could this be for? And what else do the pictures reveal? Let's have a look.

Firstly, we should point out that this leak appears to be completely legitimate. The instructions feature the correct terms, still refer to "Project Natal" in inverted commas as it is still only a codename, and the strange-looking Xbox 360 in the picture on the right is a standard dev kit, like the ones we get shown games on at preview stage.

The sentence about installing the latest XDK software is an instruction to install Xbox Dev Kit firmware. Everything makes sense.

We contacted Microsoft to ask them about it and were told:

"We announced earlier this year that Project Natal will launch this holiday, and our teams are working hard to bring the best experiences to life. We have nothing further to announce at this time."

So, that noted, and assuming this is the real deal, what new info do we have here?

The unit has its own power supply

Thisreaches the unit in a split cable, with the other branch featuring a USB connection to the console. So you'll plug it in via USB and power it from your wall socket.


Above: The dev kit instructions for the prototype Natal show its set-up

It has a motor that you MUST NOT TOUCH

The unit has a "new" motor function which tilts the unit. We reckon this will most likely be used to track your movement as you parade around the room. We already know that the hardware can distinguish between the player and other people in the room - now it looks like it can follow their movements intelligently.


Above: The unit will move automatically. Will it shake its head at you if you make an obscene gesture?

It can recognise hundreds of phrases

The instructions for the tester (and the point of them having the unit) ask that they pronounce 600 different lines of text for Natal to recognise. These range from turning on the Xbox 360 to 'connect to Facebook'. Even if you don't want to use Natal for arm-waving shenanigans, the peripheral already sounds like a very useful device. Imagine this: "Xbox 360 on. Launch Video Marketplace. Play Showgirls. Confirm Purchase.'... and there it is - and you didn't even have to get up. The couch potato market alone is going to be HUGE.

Sounds great to us. What do you think?

21 Apr, 2010