Project Natal becomes Kinect

Microsoft today finally unveils Kinect for Xbox 360 - the device formerly known as Project Natal.

Microsoft said it is positioning this "controller-free gaming device" as an entirely new way to experience entertainment in the living room - and it is nothing like the Wii. Nothing at all.

Previously code-named 'Project Natal', the Kinect label was released before the start of the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles (E3) as part of a Cirque du Soleil performance that Microsoft said was inspired by Kinect’s technology. The circus troupe possibly found Microsoft's dollars more inspiring.

The Kinect sensor plugs directly into any Xbox 360. It contains a camera, audio sensors, and motion-sensing technology that tracks 48 points of movement on the human body. It can recognise faces and voices.

"You are the controller," said Mike Delman, corporate vice president of Global Marketing for Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business. "You simply step in front of the sensor and Kinect sees you move, hears your voice and recognises your face."

Microsoft will share more details – including the release date, and some of Kinect’s initial game and entertainment offerings – at a press conference later today as E3 kicks of.

Microsoft reckons Kinect may significantly boost XBox sales by appealing to traditional non-gamers such as young children, mothers and grandparents.

"Some people don’t like controllers," Delman said. "And Kinect makes the gaming and entertainment experience more organic and free-flowing, without any of the barriers that can sometimes keep people from participating."