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Microsoft’s Project Natal Doesn’t Care About Black People?

by Latoya Peterson

I spent a lot of last week traveling and grinding on deadlines, so I missed most of the E3 coverage coming out of the gaming sphere. While I plan to catch up with BawdyJane on what she spotted there later, one project in particular caught my eye.

Dan Hsu over at BitMob has the goods:

During E3 2009, journalists, developers, and even Hollywood celebrities got wind of the secret demonstrations Microsoft was giving to select individuals and were pulling every string they could find to get in. Even Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto went to the secret area of Microsoft’s booth and got a private VIP demo.

Demian and I got to give Natal a go, and we came away extremely impressed…and neither of us are of the easily impressed variety….

“No matter how many buttons you put in a controller, you can’t get this kind of fidelity,” says Natal Creative Director Kudo Tsunoda. We’ll see later if gamers (especially the hardcore) even want that sort of fidelity, but what we’ve seen so far supports Tsunoda’s statement.

The device measures 48 different joints on your body, so it’s able to distinguish your hands from your forearm, your forearm from your upper arm, your upper arm from your torso, and so on. It can detect forward and backward 3D positioning as well, unlike old Vision Cam games that see your silhouette as a 2D physical object. It even knows how fast you’re moving your body parts toward or away from the television (keep the snickers down to a minimum, please).

Awww, yeah! Reminds me of what they were going for back in the day with those clunky virtual reality helmets everyone swore would be the new hotness. You can even use your feet to kick at things instead of keeping all your movement from the torso up, as indicated in the shot below:

Whoo! So I was properly geeked…until I caught this little note:

When game consultant and former Newsweek writer N’Gai Croal gave Paradise a test drive, however, the game had trouble reading his steering actions. The footwork (gas and brakes) worked fine, but Croal couldn’t steer his car at all. It wasn’t clear whether this was a problem of calibration differences between Tsunoda and Croal’s very different body types, or if Croal’s crazy dreadlocks threw Natal off. But it was working just fine when Tsunoda was at the “wheel.”

It’s not about the dreadlocks, Shoe. N’Gai is brown-skinned. Sensors did not compute. Damn it, gaming people. Race issues are harshin my squeez again. Continue reading