Microsoft Christens Project Natal as "Kinect"

With the E3 video game conference opening this week in Los Angeles, Microsoft has revealed that the final name for its Wii-like motion-sensing accessory for the Xbox 360 will be Kinect. The software giant unveiled Kinect at a sneak-peek event Sunday night, hoping that the add-on will jumpstart Xbox 360 sales and provide its second-place console with a solution to the casual gaming phenomenon that propelled the Nintendo Wii to market dominance.

Kinect is a tube-like hardware accessory for the Xbox 360. It includes a camera, audio sensors, and motion-sensing capabilities that track 48 points of movement on the human body, according to Microsoft, and can recognize voices and faces. Although pre-release versions of the device were white, the final version is black, and Microsoft is widely expected to release a new line of black-clad Xbox 360 consoles this week to match.

"With Kinetic, you are the controller," Microsoft Corporate Vice President Mike Delman said. "You simply step in front of the sensor and Kinect sees you move, hears your voice, and recognizes your face."

"We're excited to be announcing ways that make it simpler for everyone to enjoy the things we do," Microsoft Corporate Vice President Marc Whitten added. "People who are intimidated by a controller or game pad will finally get to unlock some of the experiences that are possible in the living room, gaming and non-gaming alike."

Sunday's event was just a sneak peek, but Microsoft said it would reveal more Kinect details on Monday, including pricing, release date, and the device's initial software library. Kinect was first introduced a year ago as "Project Natal," and Microsoft previously said it would be ready in time for the 2010 holiday season.

To date, Microsoft's console has been very successful with hard-core gamers, the people who clog the Xbox Live service for hours on end to play aggressive, addicting games such as the Call of Duty and Halo series. But the much bigger market for casual games has thus far eluded the Xbox 360, leading to the development of Kinect. Microsoft has sold 40 million Xbox 360 consoles since 2005, but that number lags considerably behind the 75 million or so Wii consoles that Nintendo has sold since 2006.

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