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Time Names Natal One Of 50 Best Inventions of 2009

by Meagan Marie on Nov 12, 2009 at 05:10 AM

Sandwiched between a smart thermostat that will change the way we conserve household energy and the first instance of teleportation, Microsoft’s Project Natal found a home with Time’s 50 Best Inventions of 2009. The recognition is humbling when considering the list also recognizes a potential Vaccine for AIDS, an Electric Eye to aid the blind and a Cyborg Beetle. What’s even more surprising is that Natal claims an early spot on the list – the number five slot to be exact. Not bad for a product aimed to entertain.

Time isn’t the only mainstream outlet to recognize the potential Natal offers to revolutionize entertainment. Not long after Natal was introduced to enthusiasts and press at E3, it made an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Popular Mechanics also recognized Natal in a manner similar to Time, listing it as one of the 10 Most Brilliant Innovations of 2009. This time Natal was kept company by a bacteria powered battery, a deep space plasma thruster and the X2 Coaxial Roto Helicopter. 

Time hasn’t been oblivious to products in the gaming space in the past, With Spore taking the 20th spot on the list in 2008 and Wii Fit being named one of 10 Gadgets of the Year. The DS Lite and PSP have also made an appearance on the list in years past, but the Nintendo Wii seems a glaring omission in 2006 despite the product generally being considered a mainstream darling. Shigeru Miyamoto has also been recognized by Time, landing a high spot on Time’s list of Top Influential people last year, as voted by readers.

While gamers obviously have a reason to anticipate Natal, some of the buzz generate outside the entertainment sphere has been augmented by musings of uses for the technology in a capacity unrelated to gaming. Popular Mechanics reasoned that the technology could be implemented in “smart houses” to monitor the health of its occupants, or allow engineers to sculpt shapes with their hands. Gaming innovator Hideo Kojima may have helped to fuel this particular fire at the 2009 Tokyo Game Show, when he rambled on about Natal being used in security and law enforcement settings.

Grabbing hold of a top spot on Time’s annual list showcases the hype surrounding Project Natal. Many developers are already throwing their weight behind the device, including ever-enthusiastic Peter Molyneux who has confirmed Natal will be used in Fable 3. Rumors that Gears of War 3 will support Natal are also rampant, and developer Rare thinks the device can be used to revolutionize the FPS genre.

Obviously Natal is a highly anticipated product. Any details, including the recent rumors of a launch date and price point, have ignited fires across the internet. Aside from some promising tech demos that we’ve participated in, our time has been limited with the new technology. While many believe that the implications Natal will have outside of the gaming landscape are vast, we first want to see if it will truly change the way we game.