Code named "Project Natal," Microsoft has introduced a new controller-free motion- and voice-sensing device that is one of the most technically advanced of its kind and will be available for the Xbox 360 video game console.
Acclaimed director Steven Spielberg worked on the project with Microsoft and was on hand for the big announcement.
"It's not about re-inventing the wheel. It's about no wheel at all," he said about the new technology. "You can really change the paradigm of storytelling and social interaction."
Microsoft hopes it will allow for unparalleled opportunities to incorporate human movement and gestures into video games and beyond.
As part of the company's one-two punch, Xbox Live members will now be able to access movies and other video with near-zero delay, allowing the roughly 20 million active users almost instant access to video on demand.
Those Xbox Live members will also be able to join the ranks of the tens of millions of social network junkies who use Facebook and Twitter to keep track of the world via the online network's interface.
The announcement comes just a week after the Redmond, Calif.,-based company announced that sales of the Xbox 360 have exceeded 30 million units since its late 2005 release.
The popular Xbox Live network already connects 360 owners to other players, downloadable games and movies for a fee, but with the addition of "instant" streaming it now competes against the likes of set-top movie stores such as Roku and Apple TV, along with traditional brick and mortar establishments like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video.
Unlike the Nintendo Wii, which reads players' movements but requires participants to hold a controller or two, and recent so-called "touch" based interfaces such as those found on in some PCs and of course on the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch, Project Natal requires nothing more than a human skeleton for interaction. A player can make virtually any movement with the body and watch a virtual self mimic the movements on screen.