Pretty much everyone has or will have a motion controller in the next 12-18 months. The absolute break-away success of the Wii has suddenly made both Sony and Microsoft very interested in the technology. At E3, both companies demoed their own take on motion controller technology.
Microsoft’s answer to motion controllers is Project Natal. Project Natal is very interesting in that you don’t actually use a controller. The new sensor captures both visible and infrared light spectrums and passes this information off to software, which is able to very accurately construct a model of the person and environment in front of it. What this means is that you can interact with virtual items without using any controller at all. This is a very interesting concept, and I’m curious to see how more full-fledged games utilize the technology — and not just tech demos.
Sony’s answer, however, is a little more traditional. In Sony’s technical demos, they have a controller that looks very much like a Wii controller, albeit with a light on one end. The PlayStation Eye then tracks the motion of this controller. Like Project Natal and Wii Motion Plus, the tracking appeared very accurate. In the tech demo at E3, Sony demonstrated using the controller to create a virtual sword, bow and arrows, and even a gun for use within a first person shooter.
On the one hand, Sony’s solution doesn’t appear as elegant as Microsoft’s, in that it had to use a controller. On the other hand, I think the Wii has been so popular in part because it had a very easy controller to use. It will be interesting to see how Project Natal can win consumers over with a large variety of games and experiences without the use of a traditional controller. Sony on the other hand seems to be targeting the same crowd which has flocked to the Wii, simply upgrading the user’s experience with the power of the PlayStation 3.
While Microsoft has yet to announce a public release date for Project Natal, Sony has stated that the first games will appear in Spring of 2010. In any case, the emergence of these controllers will usher in a whole new gaming experience on both the Xbox and PlayStation platforms.