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May 20, 2010 10:13 AM

Army may use Xbox Project Natal, via Microsoft research

Posted by Brier Dudley

The Army's getting early access to Microsoft's Project Natal motion and voice recognition system for the Xbox as part of an expanded military partnership with Microsoft Research.

Natal could be used to add "Minority Report" style controls to military systems, according to an Information Week report.

There was no word on any plans to militarize Nintendo's Wiimote.

The Army is Microsoft's biggest single customer, the story notes, and has a partnership giving it early access to Microsoft research and collaboration with the company's researchers.

Microsoft's been demonstrating Natal and showing its potential beyond the Xbox to wow other big customers recently, including bigwigs attending the company's CEO Summit this week.

Natal's going on sale later this year. Microsoft's expected to reveal its price and other details next month.

An excerpt from Information Week's story:

The partnership began last year as with multi-touch research, which further developed a project called Command and Control Multitouch Enabled Technologies (COMET) by enabling the Army to leverage Microsoft Surface and Microsoft Research's multi-touch expertise. Last month, the effort was given a multi-year extension and tacked on a number of additional Microsoft products.

According to command and control directorate computer scientist Nick Palmer, one of the broader goals of the effort, in addition to increasing usability and productivity, is to decrease costly technology training requirements by relying more heavily on natural, intuitive user interfaces.

Here's an Army video showing possible use of a Microsoft Surface computer.

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.