The lights are on
Still curious about the PlayStation Move? Sony has spent the last 24 hours here at GDC proudly showing off their new motion controller both with the games we played earlier, and also the technical side. We sat in on a meeting with Sony where key members of the team shared some high-level technical information about how the system works and its potential. The most interesting bits came from Anton Mikhailov, who works in Sony R&D and was a key designer on the project. Utilizing some basic tech demos, Mikhailov showed off just how robust the new system is.
Starting out, he gave a description of what's inside. With a combination of an accelerometer and a gyroscope, the Move has extremely sensitive movement tracking abilities. But the real magic happens with the colored bulb on top and the EyeToy camera. The tracking ability of the camera is down to the millimeter, even with the low resolution of 640x480. Tracking is accurate within a single pixel. With the technologies working together the system can even compensate when the bulb is obscured (like if a player hides it behind his back).Speaking of that bulb, the color isn't merely a static indicator representing the player number. Inside is an RGB LED that developers will have full control over for game creation. Not only can the colors be changed on the fly in real-time, but the development possibilities even extend to changing the bulb red when the player's health is at critical. Mikhailov demoed this in real-time by taking the controller and running it along a color picker showing it change.
Sony realizes these tracking abilities need to be robust. "Latency is key." Mikhailov explains, "Latency removes the barrier to the player." He also explained how this ties into intuitiveness and why it's important, especially in the casual space. The DualShock is a great controller but players must "learn" how to use it. If they pick up a Move controller and see a paint brush on screen, they know exactly what to do. Fear not, as Sony is not making this a replacement for the classic controller. While they want to target both casual and hardcore game development, Mikhailov assured everyone that "some games are just better on the DualShock."Easily the most fascinating part of the tech demo was when Mikhailov pushed the Move to the limit. The software he demonstrated the technologies extreme capabilities with was a basic augmented reality app that had him holding two swords on screen. Even as he shook the two controllers violently, the swords on screen tracked his movement with ease. Next, he put one of the controllers between his palms and spun it rapidly with the same positive results. He also demonstrated that much of the shaky movement we've seen in other demos is a result of the user and not the system. Developers will be able to alter the controller's sensitivity in order to compensate for user shakiness.Sony's willingness to so openly explain their technology to crowd may be a reflection of the company's confidence moving into motion control territory.