Image: E3 Nintendo
Damian Dovarganes  /  AP
Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata introduces Nintendo's new WII Vitality Sensor to check a user's pulse, at 2009 E3 Expo Nintendo Media Briefing at Club NOKIA in Los Angeles on Tuesday, June 2, 2009.
updated 6/3/2009 3:26:16 PM ET 2009-06-03T19:26:16

Both Microsoft and Sony debuted prototype motion controllers for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, while the only gadget that gaming leader Nintendo unveiled was a device that Wii users can use to check their pulse.

"I wasn't surprised to see Microsoft and Sony copying Nintendo," said Forrester analyst Paul Jackson. "There tends to be waves of innovation in the gaming industry, like when everyone adopted controllers with rumble functionality. Nintendo proved with the Wii that motion control is the way to get nongamers engaged in using the hardware. Now the others are following suit."

Microsoft's motion controller, codenamed "Project Natal," combines a camera, depth sensor, microphone and processor running proprietary software to end the need for any button-mashing device. Microsoft said the controller can track players' full body movements, recognize their faces and voices, scan images of real items and respond to both physical and vocal commands.

The Xbox maker demonstrated "Project Natal" with three prototype programs: "Ricochet," a soccerlike game that requires players to use their bodies to bounce balls at targets; "Paint Party," an art-making program that uses players' hands as the brush; and "Milo," essentially a virtual boy who communicates and interacts with the player.

"That blew me away," said Jackson. "The first two games Microsoft previewed were very polished, but `Milo' showed where this stuff can go above and beyond in gaming. I don't think people have seen anything like that outside of artificial intelligence labs in universities. It showed `Natal' wasn't just about flaying around or responding to commands on a screen."

Sony's wand-shaped motion controller has a light-emitting sphere on the end that can be "seen" by the PlayStation Eye camera. The unnamed device was demonstrated with minimalist software that transformed it on-screen into objects such as a sword, flashlight, whip and gun with one-to-one motion control — similar to the Wii MotionPlus.

"If you look at the consumer that is playing 'God of War III' or playing 'Killzone 2,' they're not typically somebody who may be the biggest Wii consumer," said Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. President Jack Tretton. "I think we have the opportunity to improve the experience for the casual gamer, but also address the hardcore gamer with the motion controller."

Sony said the controller would be available by next spring.

Neither company showcased any actual games for their flashy new devices at the expo, held in Los Angeles, leaving unanswered many questions about the motion control technologies, including: Will they live up to the hype?

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