Project Natal tech headed to PCs - Gates

Microsoft chairman tells CNET that the technology behind Xbox 360's motion-sensing camera is also in development for Windows-based machines--and will be used for much more than gaming.

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Microsoft doesn't just want to bring gesture recognition to the Xbox with Project Natal. It also wants the technology in Windows, according to a very good source--Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.

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In an interview with CNET News this week, Gates talked about a world in which depth-sensing cameras, such as the one Microsoft is adding to the Xbox, allow people to control their PCs, game devices, and televisions.

Speaking about all of the technology Microsoft has cooking in its labs, Gates said: "I'd say a cool example of that, that you'll see... in a little over a year, is this (depth) camera thing." Gates said it was not just for games, "but for media consumption as a whole, and even if they connect it up to Windows PCs for interacting in terms of meetings, and collaboration, and communication."

Gates said it is an example where the project started in Microsoft research but is now being commercialized by both the Xbox and Windows units. "Both the Xbox guys and the Windows guys latched onto that and now, even since they latched onto it, the idea of how it can be used in the office is getting much more concrete and is pretty exciting," he said.

Using one's body to control devices makes a lot of sense, Gates said. "I think the value is as great for if you're in the home, as you want to manage your movies, music, home system type stuff; it's very cool there," he said. "And I think there's incredible value as we use that in the office connected to a Windows PC. So Microsoft research and the product groups have a lot going on there because you can use the cost reduction that will take place over the years to say, why shouldn't that be in most office environments."

Gates actually dropped the first hint of Natal during his joint appearance with Steve Jobs at the D: All Things Digital conference in 2007. "Imagine a game machine where you're just going to pick up the bat and swing it, or the tennis racket and swing it," Gates said.

Moderators Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher mocked Gates, saying such a technology already exists, and it's called the Wii. But Gates disagreed. "No, that's not it. You can't pick up your tennis racket." He later added, "You can't sit there with your friends and do those natural things," he said. "That's a 3D positional device. This is video recognition. This is a camera seeing what's going on."

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