Time has published its list of the Top 50 Inventions of 2009 and running near the front of the pack is one that's near and dear to our hearts: Controller-free gaming, perhaps better known to you and me as Project Natal.
What earns Microsoft's new motion control system a place on a list that includes the Ares Rocket, an AIDS vaccine and mouse levitation? Simple: The elimination of the controller, which Time says is the one fundamental barrier to "Tron-like immersion" in videogames. Project Natal requires nothing but a willingness to wave various parts of your body around as required by the game; as the list puts it, "the gamer's body becomes the controller."
"You move your hand, and the Master Chief (or whoever) moves his hand," the site says. "It's that simple. And that cool."
Of course, whether or not Project Natal (and yes, fanboys, Sony's motion controller too, although the "wand" would seem to run contrary to the idea of truly controller-free gaming) becomes the Next Big Thing remains an open question, but even if it should tank, the technology and the potential it represents isn't going away. Someday we'll be able to ride Light Cycles by straddling our coffee tables and when that magic moment arrives, there will be no denying it: It really will be that cool.