Spielberg endorses Xbox 360 motion controller

Microsoft's E3 keynote packed a lot of rumor confirmations into its celebrity-filled presentation this morning. Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Olivia and Dhani Harrison, and Yoko Ono appeared for Beatles Rock Band; and Tony Hawk discussed the new skateboard controller for Ride, but those titles aren't exclusive to Microsoft's console, and the real power in today's keynote came in the news unique to the 360.

Microsoft is working on a camera-based controller While it has been rumored for several months, Microsoft managed to make its "controller-free controller" look so exciting that legendary Hollywood director Steven Spielberg actually came out on stage to talk about how cool it is.

Comparing it to the evolution of standard format film to Cinemascope to IMAX, Spielberg said that Microsoft's new controller, currently called Project Natal, is "not about re-inventing the wheel, it's about no wheel at all!" The device uses a camera and microphone bar above the user's television (similar to the Wii) and allows gestural control, voice command, and facial recognition. The controller looked like it had taken two concepts that Nintendo uses separately and combined them: the Wii's handheld motion interface and the DSi's camera-based motion sensor.

In addition to a paint program and a one-player Breakout/Arkanoid-style game that used the camera to capture the player's commands, project Natal and Lionhead studios have been developing a virtual humanoid child that interacts with users. Nicknamed "Milo," the virtual playmate recognizes people through the facial recognition software, interacts intelligently through voice recognition command, and even detects "emotion" through the speaker's pace, pitch, and inflection.

Xbox Live Improvements Microsoft's subscription service got a host of big additions today. The new Zune HD media player was announced last week with a specific lack of information about how the device would be integrated with the Xbox 360. Today, it was announced that Zune Marketplace will provide instant-on full 1080p HD movie streams, with "no discs, no downloads, and no delays." Additionally, Netflix instant streaming now does not require a PC to fill and update queues, and streaming titles can be browsed and consumed directly from the console.

A number of major Web sites have joined up with Xbox Live as well, such as Last.fm, Facebook, and Twitter. All of those services have developed interfaces specifically for the game console which will be available in the fall. Facebook will also be directly integrated into games such as the upcoming Tiger Woods title from EA Sports, which will directly post in-game screen shots and score updates to the social network. EA is scheduled to give a presentation tonight when this will be looked at in greater depth.

Metal Gear is Coming to the 360 In December 2008, a simple advertisement for the next Metal Gear title showed an all-green icon that looked a lot like the Xbox 360's power button, but said little else. Hideo Kojima appeared in Microsoft's keynote today and confirmed that the franchise which has been one of the PlayStation's strongest exclusives will be coming to the 360. Metal Gear Solid: Rising is currently in development, but Kojima warned that it is "a completely new Metal Gear," and that the main character will not be the franchise's hero Solid Snake.

A New, all-free race game is coming to Xbox Live There was little said about Joy Ride other than it will be an avatar-based driving game free both to download and to play coming to Xbox live in the winter. Footage of the game made it look like a hybrid Mario Kart and Burnout.

New Halo project beta available soon Bungie studios gave a presentation of Halo 3 ODST, and revealed that beta invites for the "top secret Halo project" known as Halo Reach will be available with ODST.

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