It’s official. This E3 is all about interactivity.
Hot on the hell of Microsoft, Sony has joined its rivals by entering the motion control arena. Setting the scene previously with the reasonably mediocre (EyeToy) and the completely useless (Six-Axis), a brand new, reasonably strange looking device promises to revolutionize the way we play. Hmm. This sounds familiar.
With the almost revolutionary Project Natal nipping at its heels, the announcement of the controller seems to have lost some of its “umph”. The pre-E3 conference date was definitely a clever move by MS to almost swallow all of the buzz, but something tells me that they weren’t all that worried about the competition.
Sony’s new device is one of those pieces of hardware that feels like it should have come out a few years ago. It’s key point, obviously over the WiiMote, is providing the EyeToy with the ability to track the glowing orbs via the camera, rather then a simple infrared tracking mechanism. The deep lens camera allows tracking in a 3D space, similar to the Xbox’s PN, but requires the orbs to be the center of the attention.
In a nutshell, it’s a green screen technique without the green screen. Providing a central area to track removes the original problems with the EyeToy, where the camera would receive interference in its tracking (ceiling fans, doors and other people), and provide very poor sensitivity. Moving from 2D to 3D tracking, again, allows very important depth in movement, which the Wii sorely, and will still currently, lack.
The product, when compared to Nintendo’s upcoming MotionPlus addon, is definitely a larger improvement. Camera tracking absolutely kills infrared tracking for accuracy, and the WiiMote will still be stuck in 2D. Showcasing multiple controllers in simultaneous movement was a clever idea, and one that will definitely be a key feature in many upcoming games. In most cases, the PS Motion does what we all expected the Wii to accomplish.
But when you compare the PS Motion to Project Natal, the winner isn’t so clear. It’s obvious Microsoft considered this route, but skipped over it and took it to the next level. Full body tracking, if it works as well as promised, could completely obliterate the Motion Controller. Being able to use your own body without a secondary device definitely allows for much deeper experiences. Coupled with voice/facial recognition, neither of which Sony/Nintendo have announced, Microsoft could very well trump both its competitors.
A quick tread across reactions, again, raises some interesting points. Many gamers point to this and find it to be the more “realistic” of the 3 options. More easily implemented in games, and since its still a controller it still provides an element of interaction without movement. The general consensus, though, is that Nintendo is in a lot of trouble. Their questionable decision to release an extremely niche addon, with probably very little use without a lot of creatively, pales in comparison to the tech announced by Sony.
Comparisons aside, the product does seem very sound. The tech demo was impressive, while a little buggy, but it showcased the ability to break the always difficult input divide. It’s not surprising that people are skeptical. We were all hurt by the promises and ultimate reality of Nintendo’s motion controls. We’ve been hurt once, and aren’t all that willing to be hurt again.
But Sony has definately stumbled onto something very interesting. They’ve obviously made an effort to tweak mistakes made by Nintendo and have finally found another use for the EyeToy. Killing two birds with one stone? Nice move.
Credit to Joystiq for the header image.