Microsoft takes on Wii with 3D camera for Xbox

REDMOND, WASHINGTON – Microsoft is believed to be developing a 3D camera for the Xbox 360 games console that will allow players to control games through the movement of their bodies.

Unlike the Nintendo Wii, which requires a hand-held controller to monitor a player’s movements, the Microsoft camera will simply  observe the movements of the player’s arms, legs and head.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the camera uses 3D technology to provide much greater accuracy than earlier games cameras. It will probably go on sale next year, although the WSJ says it may be demonstrated at the E3 game industry conference in June. The paper says the device will probably be sold separately from the XBox at first.

The camera is believed to be based on the Z-Cam technology that Microsoft recently acquired when it took over Israeli start-up 3DV Systems in February. This allows players to navigate through screens and control actions in a game simply by moving their hands. Gestures such as raising thumbs can trigger gunfire.

The ZCam was released at the end of 2007, and is reported to be able to perceive depth and detect how far an object – or person – is from the screen.

The Xbox has consistently lagged behind the Nintendo Wii in terms of sales, partly because its price has been higher. Only recently did Microsoft get the price down to the same level, and that only for the most basic version.

Rather amusingly, Microsoft has in the past tried to claim that the Xbox and Nintendo Wii aren’t actually in competition.

Microsoft has experimented with camera technology already, but very few games have been produced that actually take advantage of the Xbox Live Vision camera.