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Hands-On With The Playroom Shows Off The PS4 Controller And Camera

The Playroom is something I've known about for a while, but never looked much into it. Something about it left me skeptical; my mind goes back to the PlayStation 3 Eye and all the gimmicky software that came with it to test out its capabilities, like the Eye of Judgment and EyePet. I'm not saying there wasn't anything fun about these games, but they hardly made me marvel at the technology. Will The Playroom make a bigger impact?

After a hands-on demo, I can't say I see people spending more than a few hours with it, but it does show off the PlayStation 4's tech, especially the controller. It also left me thinking about the PS4's potential to up the ante in how we play games this generation.

Sony is pre-loading The Playroom on every PS4 console as a way to introduce people to the new features on its controller. Initially, The Playroom wasn't supposed to be public knowledge. Sony merely made the software to demo and test the controller's features, but soon agreed that these demos were actually fun and informative, leading to the decision to include it on every PS4.

The Playroom requires the camera on. Flicking up on the PS4's touchpad brings up its menu to choose which mode you want. The modes are set to show off the controller's speakers, touchpad, and motion sense. The different selections don't necessarily qualify as "games", but instead are open-ended toys that anyone can sit down and play to discover the controller's interface. That means children and parents should be able to ease into the PS4's enhanced technology by using The Playroom.

Right now The Playroom includes three different activities, but more will follow as free DLC. Sony even collaborated with Double Fine for an upcoming one. During my demo, I choose the mode that lets me play with the different AR (augmented reality) bots. By flicking down on the controller I send tons of AR bots into my controller, I'm then able to see them on-screen standing inside the Dual Shock. I can also disrupt their peace by shaking the controller and then hear their reactions through the controller's speaker; I can even feel their movements through the controller's vibrations. I turn on the light on the PS4 controller, which immediately gets their attention to look up - almost like how the alien plushies in Toy Story marvel at "the claw." If I put my hand in front of the light, it leaves them in darkness, and touching the face buttons brings up different lights, like they're in a disco.

I decide the bots have been confined in the controller long enough and flick them back out into the room. I kick my feet, which sends them flying around the screen. I wave at them and they wave back. Then I play peek-a-boo, putting my hands over my face and when I put them down, the bots scream.

We then use the PlayStation App on an iPad. Sony demonstrated this mode at its recent keynote, but seeing it in person makes it all click. In the app, I can draw objects to send into the playroom. Drawing a heart, I throw it into the room and watch the bots bounce it around and play. The app also includes preset objects like a football in case your drawing skills aren't up to par. The way they play with the objects isn't particularly groundbreaking, but it's more about the excitement of watching an object you drew be transformed onto the PS4.

I decide I should let my AR bots rest, so I decide to try out the 2-player mode. So far, this is the only option that falls into the game category, as you're basically playing pong with touchpad controls. As the circle bounces toward you, you slide your paddle with the touchpad, if you hold down on it, you can get a more powerful serve. Also, by moving your controller around, you can get your playing field to shift to distract your opponent from being able to hit it back. By far, the most exciting part of this mode is if you win, you're presented with champagne. You shake your controller like you're shaking the actual bottle and then finally the flick up to undo the cork. The virtual champagne flies everywhere, and if you move the controller, the champagne flies in any direction you please.

The third mode lets you play with Asabi, a droid who has his own personality. You can pet him or punch him. But don't hit him too much, because then he'll get mad and shoot lasers at you. He turned my on-screen head into ice, which I had to shake my head to break through. Hiding your face also makes Asabi sad, so he must like your presence when you're not hitting him. Finding out different things to do and seeing his reactions is the main draw here, and it doesn't try to be anything else.

The Playroom is a great look into how the PS4 controller will be used in future games; the opportunities seem endless with the touchpad, light, speakers, and motion sensor. The light could turn into a flashlight, the speakers could potentially act like a walkie-talkie, and the motion sensor could be great for stealth games. Since this software is pre-loaded on the PS4, we thought we'd give you a look at what you'll encounter when you load up your console for the first time. 

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