E3 Update: "Natal" becomes Kinect--and a new Xbox model

Alan Fackler

Los Angeles

The day before the official start of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft all staged elaborate press conferences to introduce new titles, new franchises, and new hardware.

Microsoft kicked off the set of press conferences with a live 90-minute event in downtown Los Angeles that officially pulled the veil off of its highly anticipated controller-free user interface. Formerly known under the code name Natal, the control scheme is now known as Kinect .

As anticipated, Kinect is fully integrated into the Xbox 360 experience. In Microsoft’s demonstration of the interface, attendees saw voice control of a video library (“Xbox: Pause”) as well as gameplay controls for casual, fitness-oriented, and family games. The AV controls were the most impressive, if only because they will eliminate the scramble for a remote control.

Initially planned solely for the Xbox 360, Microsoft has admitted to contemplating future versions of Kinect for the PC platform. Maximum PC is on the scene at E3 in Los Angeles, and we’ll be investigating this possibility further once the show floor opens on Tuesday morning. We do know that the Kinect device will require its own custom port—it does not use a USB port.

At the end of Microsoft’s press conference, the company surprised the crowd with the announcement of a new Xbox 360 model. This new version will ship with the custom Kinect port mentioned above. It will also feature a 250GB drive, a built-in 802.11n wireless adapter, five USB ports, and according to Microsoft, much more efficient cooling, a lighter power brick, and quieter system noise.

More details to come as we uncover them here in Los Angeles. If you have any special request for games or game-related hardware, post it in the comments and we’ll try to accommodate you.

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