Engadget ran a post today quoting EA VP Patrick Soderlund as saying “…we’ve maxed out the 360…” Now obviously this is a statement open to all kinds of debate/interpretation, but for the sake of this post, let’s assume this is true and that developers have squeezed all they can out of the 360.
We know that Project Natal requires more CPU cycles than the Xbox 360 can muster (while still running games) so it needs a separate processor. At E3 this took the form (as I understand it) of a fairly typical PC stashed under the table. The final product will apparently come with the sensor and a box of some kind that’ll hold the hardware required to drive Natal.
So what happens when Natal is idling? That processor is sitting there doing nothing. But does it have to be that way? If the interface between Natal and the Xbox is fast enough to act as an input device, is there a way for the XBox to offload some of its slower processes to Natal? Could Natal act as an off-board brain for the 360, extending its life by a few years?
Sega tried this with the 32X years ago — an add-on to the Sega Genesis that never really caught on. But it didn’t have Milo pushing it into homes.
This is just pie-in-the-sky thinking on my part, and I don’t know if any of the processing going on inside the 360 is time-insensitive enough that you could offload it through a USB cable to an external device. But it’d be a nice ‘bonus’ to adopting Natal — getting a speed boost as well as motion controls.