Many Natal features to be available on PS3

project-natal-sensor-xboxI wrote recently about how the differing ways of implementing motion controls on the different console gaming platforms might cause headaches for cross platform development, in particular driving a wedge between the PS3 and 360, which up until now have largely received the same set of games across both platforms essentially bringing the total tap-able HD console market up to Wii sized proportions. At a time when the Wii was showing that HD wasn’t necessary to be successful in this generation of consoles the HD market needed to become a lot more, not less, cohesive. But according to recent reports, cross platform development between Xbox and PS3 in a post Natal world might not be so difficult after all. I guess it was obvious really as they both employ cameras at the centre of their tech but it’s not like Sony went to any lengths to make this clear at E3. Perhaps they just didn’t think that this camera based stuff was ever going to take off in any big way. Here’s an overview of their motion control. What isn’t mentioned there is that Sony’s solution is more Wii like in that you hold two controllers that have buttons and rumble/force feedback available. This was touched on at E3, however what wasn’t really looked at at all at E3 (“at” overkill!) is the fact that because it uses the PS3 eye camera they can do most of the body / face tracking and face / voice recognition stuff also. Here’s a super short article talking about it albeit pretty briefly. Another recent report of  a Sony patent shows that they are looking at scanning in everyday objects to use them to control in game equivalents. Once you have scanned in the object (presumably form multiple angles) it can then track that object and use it to control in game actions, something that Microsoft says they can do also.

playstation-eye-21So although I am still pretty sure the Xbox tech is probably more capable (it has it’s own dedicated processor and depth sensor that the PS3 eye doesn’t have) it should at least mean that devs can bring a game from one HD platform to the other with it’s camera based features mostly intact. It might also mean that devs will concentrate on just those features shared between the two platforms, ignoring any platform specific features or capabilities leaving only first party titles to fully take advantage of everything that each platform is capable of.

One thing that remains to be fully detailed though is how much processor overhead all these features incur. Natal after all has it’s own processor so there’s nothing additional taxing the Xbox itself when implementing these features. In this sense they come for “free”. The PS3 on the other hand would need to use some of it’s internal processing power to handle things. But what hasn’t been made clear is whether or not Natal will actually come for “free”, as in will it be bundled in with every Xbox at no extra cost or is it something that will be an optional extra expense? Sony also haven’t said if they’re going to do anything to ensure the PS3 Eye gets into more hands or not but at least that’s a known quantity/expense and is already available, what isn’t known is how much the “wands” will cost? In fact almost nothing is known about these. They’re in the prototype stage, the ones at E3 don’t represent what the final ones will look like, cost hasn’t been discussed and there’s been no disclosure of things like the button layout, rumble, internal sensors etc. All we know is that it has buttons/triggers, rumble and some sort of internal sensor (most likely a gyro). Details are few and far between.

All in all I think Microsoft came out with a more focused, branded project and left Sony scrambling to sweep together all the different technologies that they have had available for sometime now but haven’t fully utilised or supported. It looks like they have most of the necessary tech lying around to come up with something roughly equivalent to Natal but are they able to bring it all together in time? After all Microsoft have shown an actual product and let people play actual games with it whereas Sony has only had tech demos and patents to show. Even though they’ve been doing camera based stuff since the PS2 days and even have a camera available for the PSP so far they haven’t given the PS3 Eye much lovin’ but it looks like a lot may suddenly be hinging off it!?

UPDATE: Sony’s balls light up different colours 🙂 and it’s apparently really really accurate. At the E3 conference they said it tracked “with sub millimetre precision”. They also reiterate that the controller has buttons. Well I hope it has a LOT of buttons because then you could use it for REAL games. In fact it would be cool if each wand had four buttons on the “face” and two triggers opposite them making it much like holding a dual shock in two parts. Anything less and I fear it will be doomed to mini game hell.

UPDATE: Urm, maybe like this?!

Ok, this is one of those crappy looking patent application drawings that always make things look a little retarded but this image is from an actual patent lodged by Sony?! Interestingly it includes Ultra Sonic?! Which I assume works with the PS3 Eyes built-in four-capsule microphone array for another level of tracking.


13 Responses to “Many Natal features to be available on PS3”

  1. roscopct Says:

    These are interesting times.
    This is Sony and Microsoft dipping their proverbial toes in the motion-captured water that is the next step for console gaming.
    I liken it to the movie theatres introducing 3D into movies, as the “next step”, and a way of bringing the audience back to them, rather than (often pirated or ripped) DVDs.
    My opinion is that the these motion-capture devices will be an integral part of gaming in a couple of years time and in fact I think gamers will not only WANT games with these features, but actually EXPECT them.
    Expect for NZ, with it’s f***ing retardedly slow broadband, who probably get nothing. Bah.

  2. phyzznick Says:

    I hope there is certainly a variety in the motion-capture gaming environment as id rather stick to the HD (Real? Hardcore? Non-kiddy) gaming genres. I hope its not a step back from xbox/ps3 back to Wii otherwise we may never see the majority of games coming in native 1080p in the next 4-5years! Waaahh!! 😥

    Then again these motion capture things will mean ill have to MOVE?!? Fark that lol it aint exercise for me. I like my fingers doing the talking and button/trigger raping you to death. Its all in the fingers baby! not in my fatty rolls rolling around in slow-mo on a camera.

    I hope its less motion and more buttons/triggers in the gameplay and move it/merge it in slowly, and not go full hog into full motion play. Couldnt imagine how most games ie Gears of War would work with motion-control>”wand” control??

    I dont mind a change in the controllers to some wands with lotza buttons/triggers like Ham said, but I hope the camera stuff stays away from HD for as long as possible unless they can figure a way to work it in with hardcore quick reactive games. It maybe ok for Noby Noby Boy but dont see how it will work without wands for Fallout, GoW, Killzone type games.

  3. Actually the wii-mote and nun-chuck combo works BEST for first person shooters out of all the games I’ve played on the Wii but it’s the IR pointing that’s letting you pick off all the head shots, not the motion controls as such! You’re using the analogue stick and all the buttons as well. And I think that’s the future. All the functionality of a dual analogue but with motion sensors / tracking built in. That is if this is to be the future of gaming control it needs to be the default choice, not optional and needs to meet traditional gaming needs as well as the needs of motion gaming and those that combine both control methods well will work the best. If it’s an optional extra then it’s only ever going to be an optional extra way to control traditional games that most devs and gamers will ignore. We’ve seen this happen already with the eyetoy getting only a smattering of support. If it’s the default controller available then it needs to be able to handle traditional games really well. To me this is what Nintendo did best. What they failed to do is to provide a lag free 1 to 1 tracking experience and of course they ignored the HD graphics. As for the camera stuff (not talking about wand tracking but all the other stuff) I see some uses in traditional games as long as it’s not the only control method but rather augments traditional controls. For example while holding a normal controller the camera can track where you’re looking and apply that in the game. Bye bye shoddy in game camera controls! The in game camera looks where you’re looking. It could set up your avatar by detecting your features, colour of your clothes, gender and age. Bye bye fat old men pretending to be attractive young girls 🙂 but I’m not sure this kind of thing justifies a camera system alone and traditional gamers aren’t interested in flapping their arms around too much especially if it means giving up all their lovely death dealing buttons and rumble 🙂

    Interesting fact for you. The Wii already employs a camera system for motion tracking but instead of being on the TV facing outward it’s on the Wii-mote and tracks IR lights in the the inacurately named “sensor bar”.

    • phyzznick Says:

      >For example while holding a normal controller the camera can track where you’re looking and apply that in the game.<

      Dont know where your looking buddy but ill be looking at the TV lol bit hard to see what your doing when ya looking to the right starring at the fridge, if the camera does look to the right with you, id have to squeeze my eyes into the left corners of my sockets to get a glimpse at my TV :o)
      The camera would have to measure VERY subtle movement and register it as a large look to the angle your going for. This could get very tricky, and rather annoying, might have to invest in a neck brace to lock on and look straight, last think i want is to play a game that has a camera like a running bobblehead lol 🙂

      I agree with the dual controllers and IR tracking with games, that will (and 'is' in the Wii world) be the future of all gaming.
      I would definitely play a FPS or any game with this integrated.
      Its just the integration of the camera motion tracking i query on how they will work with alot of the games out there. In theory it may sound ok but i doubt it has many practical applications into the games that make it easy and not a pain in the behind.

      • Yes, this kind of subtle head tracking is possible. They have head tracking specialists working for them (Sony and Microsoft). Will try and find more info to link to. On the wii it works where if you point the wii-mote towards the edge of the screen you turn. If you point anywhere else you look in that direction. I think when you play games even without motion sensing you find yourself looking around anyway, even to the point where you will (often subconsciously) lean and try to look around corners etc. The more immersive that games get the more likely you are to do this even without realizing it. The camera can pick up all this stuff and interpret it as movement and camera control.

      • This is one of the “head tracking specialists” I was thinking of but no doubt there’s plenty of talented people working for all the console makers that are into this sort of stuff. Interestingly he started out doing stuff with Nintendo hardware!? Using the wii-motes camera. I’m sure you could tweak the sensitivity to be as fine as you want. Sony reckons that in addition to face tracking they can track your faces bones?! Like jaw movement I’m guessing?! How subtle do you want!!? 😀

        A classic quote from here says the following…

        No. This version requires just the official PS3 camera. And a person with a face and some mobility in their neck.

        So unless your spine has fused in place you should be fine!? 😉 I haven’t looked at the video yet but it sounds like it does just what I was talking about? Welcome to bobble head hell!! It’s down the corridor and on your left from wii-mote waggle hell! 😉

  4. That head tracking video was totally awesome!!! (The 1st one with Johnny Lee and the Wii set up. The one with the PS3 is the same concept but the video doesn’t show the effects as well). I had heard that head tracking could work on the new systems but I didn’t envision it looking like this. Looks like it will give an amazing 3D effect. I can definitely see this as being something that would be beneficial for games. It allows for deeper immersion in the game world, and is not just a cheap gimmick. It’s one the best examples of what could be possible with camera/motion tracking I’ve seen yet!

  5. phyzznick Says:

    Yeah that video was quite cool.
    But saw No turning ability?? There was obviously strafing to the sides and ducking etc to view down a tunnel… Im guessing turning ability may be limited more by the wii motes +sensors sensitivity ability?? or is it possible and its maybe just the programming??
    Obviously ull get higher sensitivity cameras/sensors to get the turning im guessing like u said.

    Interesting times for sure.

  6. Actually after seeing that video i think adding turning into the equation would ruin that experience and shatter the illusion somewhat, probably best to leave that to the controller. In the wii there is an invisible bounding box on screen and when you “look” outside this box you stop looking and start turning. This works fine with the wii-mote where you simply move the pointer towards the edge of the screen to turn left or right but that kind of head tracking shown in that video creates an amazing illusion that I wouldn’t have believed was possible and you wouldn’t want to ruin that effect by introducing turning into the equation.

  7. Yeah I’m not sure how turning would work? ….probably would need to be left to the controller? I’m sure developers will be working hard on these issues at the moment. The tech demo was very basic but showed the idea clearly. Now we need a more complex game demo using the concept….it must be possible, hurry up dev teams!! 🙂

  8. Yeah! Think of this in the context of something like Dead Space, Mirrors Edge or Bioshock!! Amazing!! The strong lines and perspective of Mirrors Edge in particular would really emphasize the effect but the claustrophobic feel of those other games would be really enhanced! I can’t wait til this is just standard in every game. I wonder if there’s much processor overhead. The wii-mote system just used the sensor bar which all games already use so no overhead there but the camera based systems have to recognise your head and exactly judge where you are looking so maybe requires some processor power to analyse what the camera is seeing? But the devs would no longer have to program in fake head bobble effects when your character is walking/running in game 🙂

  9. Another Natal like patent from Sony. Emotion recognition this time. Although they are portraying it in the context of TV producers being able to tell how people are reacting to their shows, presumably so they can “improve” the content!? Gotta love those goofy patent diagrams!! 😀

  10. Why dont nvidia or ati just write a driver to enable head tracking on pc so this could work for all games even the old ones like nvidia’s stereo rendering which renders another view of the scene shifted a bit. After all webcams are pretty common among pc users.

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