Natal Cirque de Soleil event detailed

Plus: details on four Natal tech demos.

The LA Times has revealed details of the Cirque de Soleil event Microsoft has commissioned to introduce its final vision of Project Natal to the world this evening in Los Angeles.

According to the newspaper, Cirque de Soleil's corporate events team has put together a 45-minute display involving a nine-foot elephant puppet and 80 performers, courtesy of over 100 designers.

The show had to be transported to LA from Montreal by 25 semi-trailer trucks, and the Galen Center venue had been booked for three weeks straight for practice and implementation by Microsoft, which also paid for heavy security.

Apparently Cirque de Soleil's Michel Laprise won the commission by dazzling Microsoft executives in Redmond with an hour-long tale of "a boy on a quest to locate meteors that have fallen from the sky and uncover their meaning" - a visual metaphor he illustrated with a bucket of sand, "three rocks, a small wooden elephant and a flashlight".

"It's a story about humanity, about a quest and about overcoming obstacles," Laprise told the LA Times.

"In history, there have been discoveries that have made us leap forward as a civilisation. But those technologies demanded that we master their language, the language of machines.

"This time, it's the machine that's adapting. The human is at the center, doing what comes naturally. Moving, jumping, talking. And it's up to the machine to interpret what that means."

Microsoft's Aaron Greenberg described the event - which will be broadcast live on the internet - as "a massive investment for Microsoft". "For us, it wasn't about the money. It was about creating an experience that would be remembered forever."

The LA Times also got to see a few Natal tech demos, although the actual software line-up will likely only be revealed at Microsoft's full E3 press conference tomorrow, 14th June, at 10am PST / 6pm BST.

Two of the demos shown were familiar. River Rush involved steering a raft past waterfalls, rocks and so on with lots of jumping and leaning, while Ricochet is the same as last year's E3 and gamescom demo, except two players can now play, directing their avatar to block balls flying out of the screen.

The other two demos were new, however. Living Statue let you record your avatar dancing and then send the video to friends, while Obstacle Course had players pull, dodge and jump through an obstacle course.

Whether the four demos will form part of a Wii Sports-style mini-game package, we'll have to find out tomorrow.

The Cirque de Soleil Project Natal premiere takes place at 7pm PST / 3am BST tonight and Microsoft has banned laptops and so forth so that we all concentrate on the show.

However, based on our appointments tonight we are expecting Natal details of some form, so watch out for stuff to start breaking late at night.

The full Microsoft E3 press conference is at 10am PST / 6pm BST on Monday, 14th June, and Eurogamer will be providing its usual live coverage.

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