Project Natal becomes Kinect at E3 media circus

Microsoft has officially launched its controller-free motion sensing device. Previously known as Project Natal, it now has a proper name: Kinect.

The device, for the Xbox 360, has a camera, audio sensors and motion sensors that track the movements of 48 key body parts (not that one, not yet). It can recognize faces and voices.

Kinect can perform full-motion tracking of the human body at 30 frames per second, and isn’t affected by what a user is wearing or what type of furniture is around.

“Some people don’t like controllers,” said Mike Delman, corporate vice president of global marketing for interactive entertainment.

“And Kinect makes the gaming and entertainment experience more organic and free-flowing, without any of the barriers that can sometimes keep people from participating.”

Possibly taking the term ‘media circus’ just a tad literally, Microsoft launched the product last night with a performance from Cirque du Soleil. It depicted a boy playing his Xbox 360 with a traditional controller, all alone – but having a much better time once he gets the Kinect device and his family joins in. All together now, aaah.

The company is pushing Kinect at traditional non-gamers such as young children and grandparents.

“We’re excited to also be announcing ways that make it simpler for everyone to enjoy the things we do,” said Marc Whitten, corporate vice president of Xbox Live.

“People who are intimidated by a controller or game pad will finally get to unlock some of the experiences that are possible in the living room, gaming and non-gaming alike.”

There’ll be a lot more information today, Delman said. So far, there’s no word on pricing or avaialbility, although it’s expected to be available in time for the holiday season.