Sony: Hands-free tech isn’t viable

Sony’s senior researcher Richard Marks has previously been involved with hands-free technology through the PlayStation Eye and has come to the conclusion that it is not a viable option for gaming. Furthermore, he believes that the best benefit to gamers will come in the form of a gyroscope and camera, much like the company’s upcoming release of PlayStation Move.

Of course, some fanboys will take this as a direct shot to Microsoft’s upcoming Kinect peripheral, but in all honest, he probably has enough experience with this type of technology to form an opinion of his own.

“We did as much as we could with just a camera: that was my focus. But we kept running into problems, you couldn’t do all the experiences we wanted to do and also around that time DualShock was coming out for PlayStation 3, it had built-in censors and gyros that gave different kinds of information about rotation, whereas the camera could give a lot of position information.

“So combining the two made a lot of sense. And also the big other factor that we were realising at the time was that it feels good to have something in your hand for a lot of games. It’s not just that it gives you more input capability, which it does. But also it just feels right. Like if you have a tennis racket it feels better to have a controller in your hand. If you have a magic wand, a sword, a gun, it all feels better.”

Marks continued: “We were very interested [in losing the remote] in 2004. But then we just decided it wasn’t a viable product in our minds. EyeToy can already do a lot of that already. We hit a lot of the same limits with the 3D camera that we had hit with EyeToy so it didn’t seem like it added enough value.

“I had demonstrations with the 3D camera where you’re just casting spells or drawing. Doing it with your fingers is kind of neat but in the end it feels awkward. I would often just pick up a stick and it felt better.”

Once the team realized that this wasn’t going to work as an option for gaming, the team quickly started production on PlayStation Move, which is what we’ve come to know today.

“[The controller] was easy to use, you could get all the benefits of having buttons. But we could also have all the benefits of tracking the controller with a camera, and that’s when we basically started the productisation of Move,” he said.

What is your opinion on this new technology? Do you think hands-free gaming is really going to be that great or do you think it’s going to hinder gaming more than anything? We’ve all seen the ridiculous “live tech demos” of Kinect and it was blatantly obvious they were pre-recorded…including the Forza 3 tech demo.

What is your stance?


Readers Comments (5)

  1. No. I think “hand free” gaming isn’t really he way to go for the core gamer. It could be fun sure, but so are some cellphone games and at the end of the day I just want to pick up my controller and start playing some “real” games.

    There’s so much you can do in gaming without having a controller in your hands.

    On the other hand, hands free navigation sound awesome. Controlling the interface, manipulating photos and videos; that’s the stuff that excites me the most.

  2. Doominator99 July 27, 2010 @ 10:24

    The move has much more potential. Kinect can only do games where you stand still or are on rails but the move can do all casual and hardcore games plus when move comes out we will be getting tonnes of PC games that wouldnt work well on consoles in the past because of the controller.


  3. 30NIGHTCRAWLER30 July 27, 2010 @ 10:57

    I totally agree with Doominator99

  4. I agree. Without buttons, control using a camera is extremely limited. I’ve yet to see Kinect do anything that wasn’t already done with EyeToy on PS2 in 2006. EyeToy Kinetic was basically the same as the Ubisoft Your Shape demo at E3, and shows the camera was capable of tracking the entire body.

    The PS Eye already does menu navigation in EyePet, and the movements required are much smaller than those shown to be used so far with Kinect. I’m sure if Sony wanted to, they could implement such navigation into the XMB, but quite frankly, what would be the point?

    It’s a novelty, and once the novelty wears off, we’d be back pressing buttons in no time. Why? Simply because it’s quicker and easier. Once your video or MP3 collection gets past 50 or so, navigation/selection by waving your arms at a camera (or repeatedly saying ‘up/down/left/right/forward/back/select’ is going to be incredibly tiresome.

    As the article points out, the ‘live’ tech demos at E3 were laughable. In the Forza demo, the pointer moves before the guy moves his hand, and in the Kinectimals demo, the hands on screen stopped following what the girl was doing abuot halfway through. (For ‘demo’ read ‘pre-recorded video and poorly synchronised movements’.)

    The only truly live demo was the Ubi Your Shape demo, and that showed up just how inaccurate Kinect is. Between the 2 demos (the first at the MS conference, the 2nd at the Ubi conference), she shrunk by 2 inches and her arms mysteriously grew by 4 inches. Not really what you want if a game is going to calculate your BMI and suggest an exercise regime for you. Such measurements need to be accurate, and clearly, they’re not.

    To be honest, if I were interested in Kinect, I’d be pretty worried that they’re just a few months from launch, and yet they’re still having to fake tech demos of anything other than simple games requiring large, obvious movements.

  5. Hands-free gaming makes me feel disconnected from the experience.

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