Perennial showman Peter Molyneux took to the stage towards the end of the Microsoft conference this evening to showcase a project which Lionhead has been working on for Project Natal - Microsoft's new hands-free control system.
Lionhead developers have already had their mitts on the motion-sensing technology for a "few months" now, developing a rather impressive piece of software featuring a virtual boy named Milo. Before introducing us to Milo, Molyneux claimed that what we were about to see would "change the landscape of gaming forever".
Viewers were introduced to Milo as a Lionhead employee, Claire, chatted to him on-screen, using Natal's voice, face and motion-detecting technology to listen to questions, interpret mood and respond appropriately.
We're not sure how much scripting was taking place, nor how far the limits of Milo's interpretational powers can be pushed, but there was a definite sense of interaction from the wee lad as he paced about, lamenting his homework assignment. After a quick, relatively natural chat, the development was invited to help with the homework, which apparently consisted of drawing some fish.
Against a typically colourful Lionhead background scene, Claire was lead down a pier to the water's edge to fish, having reassured Milo about his drawing skills. Nearing the end of the pier, Milo tossed a pair of goggles through the screen, so to speak, drawing an "unscripted" catching reaction from the Lionheader as they hit the lens, before putting them on. Drawing closer to the water, featuring her realistically ruffled reflection, Lionhead lady was invited to "touch" the water, and proceeded to swish the currents around with hand and arm movement.
She then whipped up a quick fish drawing, on a normal piece of paper, before handing it to the camera for Milo's inspection. Taking the drawing smoothly, albeit virtually, Milo instantly recognised what it depicted, as well as its colour. Twee perhaps, but a demonstration of the system's potential flexibility.
Molyneux concluded by saying that this sort of achievement has been a "dream" of his for "20 years", "meeting a real character" who knows you. We're expecting to see Natal behind closed doors in the next little while, so look out for our own interpretation of the Milo demo in more detail as soon as we have.