Last June, Microsoft confirmed earlier reports out of Israel and Silicon Valley that it had purchased the Israeli motion-sensing tech firm 3DV Systems. That company's Z-Cam was assumed to be part of Project Natal's motion-sensing camera, which Microsoft unveiled at the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Today, another Israeli firm, Tel Aviv-based PrimeSense, revealed that its 3D motion-sensing "PrimeSensor" camera is actually at the heart of Project Natal. "Xbox 360 hardware engineering teams developed the Project Natal sensor based on the PrimeSensor reference design to support the special requirements of Project Natal," said PrimeSense president and founder Aviad Maizels in a statement.
PrimeSense believes Natal is an extension of its aim to bring "engaging natural experiences to consumers." The company's Web site is reminiscent of the first Project Natal trailer from E3 (below), showing families navigating menus with hand motions from a couch and a teenager playing Grand Theft Auto IV with no controller. However, the latter image is almost certainly a mock-up, as Rockstar Games has not announced any Natal-based projects or patches for the best-selling game, released in 2008.
The site also says the PrimeSensor will let players use their own athletic equipment, as Natal will when it ships this holiday season. (Microsoft is also holding a "premiere" for the device on June 13, just before this year's E3 kicks off in Los Angeles.)
Another image shows a woman using the PrimeSensor--which looks like a smaller version of Natal--to exercise with a virtual personal trainer. Curiously, though, one of the most popular workout games on the market appears to not be supporting Natal. At least not yet.
During the 2010 Game Developers Conference earlier this month, Electronic Arts announced its Sports Active 2.0 will use its own proprietary wireless control system based on sensors embedded in elastic bands. The game was announced for the Wii, iPhone, and PlayStation 3--but, curiously, not the Xbox 360.