If British talk show host Jonathan Ross is to be believed, Microsoft will launch Project Natal in October of this year.
Ross, who got a chance to use the system at a celebrity reveal last night, mentioned the release date in a late-night tweet. He said, “Natal on X Box impressive. Not quite there yet i think but tye (sic) have til october and if they get it right…skys the limit.”
Ross’ comments, when taken in conjunction with other early reviews, paint a clear picture of the hill Microsoft will have to climb to meet this October release date.
Russ Frushtick, an MTV blogger who also tested Natal recently, claims that the system is quite impressive, but has a noticeable lag. “I had a pretty large sample size, sitting through 5 demos, capturing about 40 different movements from a variety of journalists” he said. “Across those 40 movements, the fastest life-to-screen transition was .08 seconds, while the slowest was .12 seconds. A tenth of a second was the consistent average, though.
Given that even Hollywood motion capture studios (with nearly 30 cameras) aren’t able to render in perfect real-time, this is pretty impressive. However, a tenth of a second is going to be noticeable for even the casual gamer.
Microsoft does have eight months to improve the response times of the system. That’s a long, long time in the software world. And that’s what it will come down to; it is a software issue. If Microsoft can halve that lag in the next eight months, it will be scarcely noticeable; perhaps even in Wii Sports Resort territory without using a controller. That would be a truly remarkable accomplishment.