At a spectacle on Sunday night (June 13) in L.A., Microsoft revealed the name of its new user interface. Kinect—perhaps derived from “kinetic”—which turns users into controllers, has been known as Project Natal since it was first announced by Microsoft at E3 2009.
The worldwide premiere of Kinect, held on the eve of E3 2010, was choreographed by Cirque du Soleil. It was described as an experience, and an experience it was.
After donning a white, satin poncho—with shoulder pads that would rival those popularized by Linda Evans in the ’80s—audience members were directed, one at a time, down a darkened hallway. I was then sent through a large opening in a wall to be greeted by a family of South Asians—mother, father, son, daughter. I realized I had stepped through their TV, and while they spoke to me in a language I did not understand, they were clearly greeting me. (Others went through the “TVs” of other families, I learned later.)
From there, I was guided to the floor of the auditorium, which was lightly decorated to look like it was a mountainous jungle. I asked a page where I should go, and after checking the colour of my wrist band, she told me that I belonged on the floor.
Where the Cirque performers were circulating among the crowd, interacting with the audience—posing, playing, “talking” in the playful gibberish that passes for language in the Cirque worlds.
It was difficult to be a spectator, as the creatures were forcing us all to be participants. Now I’ve seen Cirque shows before, but it’s different when the contortionists and acrobats are two feet away.
After an hour of mingling with the Cirque performers, the presentation began. It was a live demonstration of a family playing a variety of games with the Kinect system. The games were not named, simply played in front of us. There was a kart racing game (Joy Ride, from Vancouver’s BigPark), a fitness title with yoga and tai chi, a sports game (hurdles, javelin, beach volleyball, and bowling were shown), and a Star Wars game with light sabre action.
We also got a sense of how Kinect will be used to navigate the Xbox 360 menus, and how it can be used to take photos and hold video chats.
There were no speeches or announcements save a brief opening narration that attempted to set the scene by suggesting that “the future of humanity might be humanity itself”. Despite that pretentiousness, the worldwide launch of the Kinetic was an exciting and unique experience.
More details about Kinetic, including pricing and release date, will be released this morning (June 14), at the Xbox E3 press briefing.