Microsoft unveils Project Natal, its controller-free gaming system

E3 kicked off in Los Angeles yesterday in spectacular fashion with Microsoft's Project Natal. Steven Spielberg (or Esteban Espielberg, as he is known in Spain) called it "a window into what the future holds." It's a little black box that contains all sorts of tricks — complex voice- and facial-recognition abilities, detailed body tracking that detects movement of individual limbs, for starters — and sits beneath your TV.

"There is technology now that recognizes not just your thumb, it recognizes your entire person. The technology knows who you are," said the Oscar-winning director, claiming that Project Natal was to gaming what IMAX is to the movies. Don't tell your kids about it just yet, though. Project Natal won't be coming to a cinema store near you before the end of the year, and Microsoft didn't say just how much the technology will cost consumers when it does eventually become available.

And the revolutionary system wasn't all that Microsoft ponied up yesterday. A slew of new games are on their way to shops, including Beatles Rock Band, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Tony Hawk Ride and Final Fantasy XIII. The Redmond massive has also inked a deal with Twitter and Facebook in an attempt to make XBox Live "the next generation of social networking," according to Microsoft's Vice President of Xbox Strategy and Development, Shane Kim. Check the bonus video after the jump of one of Project Natal's games. It knocks Wii Fit into a cocked hat, but you're going to need a bi-i-ig old space in front of the TV to play it!

Engadget, via BBC News, via Technabob