The new era in gaming which began when Wii remotes started showing up in living rooms just four years ago is about to be taken to the next level. That’s because Microsoft has premiered its Kinect for Xbox 360 – a motion control system that allows players to take part in full-body physically-interactive games without the use of any remote. First coming to light a year ago under the code name Project Natal, it utilizes a CMOS camera, infrared projector and multi-array microphone to track the movements and voices of players. Kinect is set for release later this year.

According to Microsoft, the system works in almost any light, can recognize users on sight or by voice, and actually understands conversations, as opposed to just keywords. Movements and vocal commands can be used not only for hot gaming action, but also to navigate menus for activities like TV- or movie-watching - just like Tom Cruise did with his computer-of-the-future in Minority Report.

Games already developed for the system will allow users to visit with fuzzy animals, do a workout and then receive feedback on their performance, play a variety of sports, take part in a dance-off, and pretty much all the Wii-ish stuff one would expect. Disney will be contributing content, and LucasArts is slated to deliver Star Wars-based games next year.

Kinect will work with any Xbox 360 system, and will be available in the US as of November 4th, with the rest of the world following thereafter. There is no word yet on price, although the system reportedly lacks its own CPU in order to keep costs down. Given that Nintendo and Sony (with its Playstation Move controller) have chosen not to pursue similar technology because of the high accuracy of their upcoming controllers, it will be interesting to see just how well Microsoft's system performs.

If you’re interested in more technical details, check out the follow-up article we did on Project Natal earlier this year.

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