Natal Recognises 31 Body Parts, Uses Tenth Of Xbox 360 Processor

Project Natal knows when you're holding your hand behind your back, according to a new report. But it also might require enough horsepower to limit its relevance to system-pushing video games.

A reporter for the New Scientist was given a demonstration and some data regarding how Microsoft's hands-free sensor-based Xbox 360 control system, Project Natal, will work:

[Project Natal lead developer Alex Kipman]says Natal consumes just 10 to 15 per cent of the Xbox's computing resources and it can recognise any pose in just 10 milliseconds. It needs only 160 milliseconds to latch on to the body shape of a new user stepping in front of it.

The system locates body parts to within a 4-centimetre cube, says Kipman. That's far less precise than lab-based systems or the millimetre precision of Hollywood motion capture. But Douglas Lanman, who works on markerless 3D interaction at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and is not involved with Natal, says that this will likely be accurate enough for gamers.

The system depends on a "50-megabyte software package that can recognise 31 different body parts in any video frame," and will know, according to Kipman, if you put your hand behind your back.

At E3 2009, Project Natal was announced as a device that would run off of its own processor and was shown to work with highly-detailed, blazingly-fast racing game Burnout: Paradise. rumours that Natal no longer has its own processor coupled with this report that Natal needs 10-15 per cent of the 360's juice, raise questions about where a game that was made to push the 360 to its limits without Natal would be able to support the Natal peripheral. That would seemingly diminish the ability to connect Natal to the highest-end games, though that's speculation we'd need professional game developers to weigh in on. Only they know how much Xbox 360 horsepower their games require.

The report makes no mention of the Natal using its own processor, an element it was recently rumoured has been dropped and would explain why the Natal is now drawing on the 360's processor.

Supporting that theory of a removed processor are changes made to Microsoft's official Natal fact sheet since E3.

E3 2009:

"Project Natal" sensor. "Project Natal" is the world's first system to combine an RGB camera, depth sensor, multiarray microphone and custom processor running proprietary software that brings "Project Natal" experiences to every Xbox 360 console. The "Project Natal" sensor tracks full-body movement and individual voices, creating controller-free fun and social entertainment available only on Xbox 360.

CES 2010:

"Project Natal" sensor. "Project Natal" combines an RGB camera, depth sensor and multiarray microphone running proprietary software that brings "Project Natal" experiences to every Xbox 360 console. The "Project Natal" sensor tracks full-body movement and individual voices, turning you into the controller for social entertainment available only on Xbox 360.

Microsoft's body-sensing, button-busting controller [New Scientist via TechRadar]


    Pulling the processing off of the Natal bar and onto the 360 would reduce the cost of the bar, but it would also probably mean it's a little bit slower to react, due to the communication between the Natal bar and the 360. This might be why we've seen a little bit of lag in some of the demos, or even missed gestures, the processing of these has been delayed while the 360 does other things.

    I think that Microsoft are banking on the fact that consumers would rather a cheaper choice, and that developers still haven't got all of the power out of the 360 yet. I'd like to think that developers are still getting into how to really squeeze the last drops out of the 360, and if you look at some of the games released at the end of the PS2 life-cycle, you can see it is certainly possible.

    It's interesting that they refer to it *just* using 10 to 15 percent of the processor. Converting marketing speak into reality, I'd be thinking that would be then spiking at more than 20% at peak times... as the article mentions will be quite a burden on the more system-pushing games (and even the not-so-system-pushing-ones), so will be interesting as to how this pans out...

    I wonder if people missing a leg can play natal

      Oh gawd I laughed at that... must be that time of the morning!

      Very interesting that Natal will be leeching 360HP though, and somewhat disappointing.

      i was wondering the same, or if you're missing an arm it assumes its behind your back or something?

    More than the processor usage, it'd be worried about this: 'The system depends on a “50-megabyte software package"'

      The 50Mb software package would be installed on your hard-drive. Wouldn't take up too much space, but when you have a 20Gb HDD, there's not much to go around to begin with.

    I wonder if it will recognise my huge....


    Does that mean it wouldn't work well with online play. Reasons being lag??

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