Cirque Brings Kinect to Life

LOS ANGELES – June 14, 2010 —In a rich green forest, the cheers of more than 3,000 poncho-clad people rose above a steady drumbeat Sunday night at the moment Microsoft shared the name of its new controller-free gaming device for Xbox 360: Kinect.

A basketball court became a futuristic wonderland Sunday night in Los Angeles, as the famed Cirque du Soleil troupe introduced Kinect, Microsoft’s new controller-free gaming device.

It wasn’t an actual forest, but a college basketball arena as imagined by a Montreal-based troupe of Cirque du Soleil performers.

Previously code named Project Natal, Kinect had its most-detailed public introduction to date during the 45-minute extravaganza at the Galen Center arena in Los Angeles on the eve of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).

The Kinect for Xbox 360 World Premiere revealed the long-awaited name of Microsoft’s hands-free gaming device and even a bit more – showing scenes from Kinect games. The company is releasing more details about Kinect – including pricing and availability – during E3.

Cirque du Soleil Artistic Director Michel Laprise told the Los Angeles Times that the troupe was inspired by Kinect’s technology and excited to create a show to introduce it. The 75 dancers, musicians, and acrobats not only unveiled Kinect, but gave attendees a long, hard, never-sit-still look at Xbox 360’s newest gaming and entertainment platform.

The troupe transformed themselves into a vine-and-flower-covered tribe and the arena into a lush forest with foliage and filtered light. They transformed the audience as well—the 3,000 celebrities, journalists, bloggers, and tech industry who’s who in attendance were issued white satin ponchos to wear for the evening. The college graduation-gone-Vulcan smocks provided a blank backdrop for the colorful performance until the end, when the large, pointy shoulders of each poncho illuminated, turning the audience into a sea of tiny, Xbox -green lights.

A life-sized elephant and gorilla, a family sitting on a couch suspended 80 feet in the air, pumping world music and pounding drums, 25-foot projection screens around the top of the arena, a rotating 40-foot “television screen,” a large boulder aglow with the Xbox logo—all of these effects and more were meant to help tell the (largely wordless) story of a boy on a mission to find meteors and meaning.

By the time the show began, attendees who had at first seemed bewildered by their white ponchos had relaxed and were mingling with Cirque du Soleil performers and rubbing pointy shoulders with each other, speculating on the show and what mysteries it would reveal.

In the show’s prologue, a narrator posed the notion that the future of humanity is humanity itself. In the 50 million years of evolution, the narrator said, each leap forward in technology leaves more and more people behind.

“This time, human beings will be at the center, and the machine will be the one that adapts,” the narrator said.

With the help of the dancers and acrobatics, a boy made his way from where he was sitting on a couch, through the forest and the white-clad crowd, to some large, boulder-like meteors. He scrambled up the meteors, tossing aside a traditional game controller on the way up, and as he stood on the top-most meteor, it lit up with the Xbox logo to great applause.

On the eve of the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Microsoft and Cirque du Soleil hosted an extravaganza complete with 75 performers, a life-sized elephant, a gorilla, and 3,000 audience members clad in futuristic white ponchos.

Standing there put the boy face-to-face with a large screen that slowly revealed an avatar of him, complete with matching clothes. After the boy and his avatar waved their arms and legs in unison, the boy asked the screen, “What’s your name?”

In a flash of purple, letters appeared on the screen and arranged themselves to form the word “KINECT.” Again, more cheers from the crowd.

The screen transformed into a rotating living room, and the boy climbed inside. There, for the rest of the show, a cast of characters demonstrated the experiences that Kinect will enable.

Cirque du Soleil performers took the audience on an extended tour through multiple games that included steering a raft down river rapids; driving a car on a race course and a half-pipe; petting and interacting with a tiger cub; competing in a variety of sports including beach volleyball, track and field, and soccer.

Performers also demonstrated some nongaming experiences, including a woman enjoying yoga lessons from a virtual Kinect teacher, a family using Kinect to select a movie and take dance lessons together, and far-flung friends interacting by using video chat.

After the performance, audience members returned their white smocks and were given a Kinect tiger cub as seen in one of the games.

A commercial-free version of the Cirque du Soleil show will air on U.S. television on Tuesday, June 15, at 3:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Nickelodeon, MTV, and other channels. Later in the week, a video of the event will be posted on .

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