Microsoft has officially renamed its Project Natal motion-control technology. Now it will call it Kinect.

It’s a new accessory for the Xbox 360 video game console that lets you control games with your voice, facial recognition and body movements. The company is unveiling it tonight at an event in Los Angeles at the start of the E3 trade show.

USA Today reported the new name and revealed games for the system, which is being unveiled in a performance by Cirque du Soleil at the University of Southern California.

The project, underway for four years, is Microsoft’s answer to the Nintendo Wii.

USA Today described the following games in the works for Kinect (I’m quoting directly from the newspaper):

• Kinectimals lets you train and play with 20 different virtual cats, including a lion, cheetah and tiger.

• Joyride, a racing game, lets players use their hands to hold an imaginary steering wheel — pull your hands toward you and push back out for an acceleration boost — and their bodies to execute jumps and tricks.

• Kinect Sports has six activities including boxing, bowling, beach volleyball, track and field, soccer and table tennis. To serve a volleyball, you mimic the real motion; in soccer, you can kick the ball or do a header.

• Kinect Adventures includes a river-raft time trial and obstacle course, playable by up to four players. On the raft, playing as a duo, you and a partner must lean one way or another to steer. Jumping helps the raft reach special areas for extra points.

• Dance Central, in development by MTV Games, brings a So You Think You Can Dance experience home.

• Star Wars characters and iconic Disney favorites will be featured in separate new games being developed at Microsoft in conjunction with LucasArts and Disney.

[photo credits: USA Today]