Playstation Eye has been around since late 2007, and is the hardware successor to the Playstation 2's EyeToy. It's a pretty standard webcam that can capture video up to 640x480, 120fps at lower resolutions, and serves as the brains behind the Move system. The camera can be used for gesture-based interfaces, facial recognition, and even advanced head tracking. The latter is said to be implemented in the upcoming Gran Turismo 5 racing title, allowing players to look around the virtual cockpit. Other games, like the launch title Eye of Judgment, recognized objects to produce an augmented reality card game.
Depth aside, gesture and facial recognition is not an exact science. Both the Eye and Natal are based on thousands of hours of testing intended to teach the webcam how to recognize certain body parts. Legs, limbs and eyebrows are all analyzed in numerous positions so that movement can be identified as comprehensively as possible. In the case of Natal, Microsoft explains that the combination of IR and standard webcam allow Natal to create a 3D skeleton, around which a virtual avatar can be rigged. Sony's Move follows a similar process when combined with the Eye, using the handheld controllers as reference points for depth and orientation.
Windows, Mac and Linux. One can only wonder how Natal might be used upon its release, especially since Johnny Chung Lee, the Carnegie Mellon University graduate who's made a name for himself hacking together Wii and webcam touch interfaces, is contributing to Microsoft's project.
While neither Move or Natal is on the market yet, early reports have been positive, with minimal lag or tracking complaints. Whether all this tech is the future of gaming is anybody's guess; let me play Tetris with my eyes, and maybe then you'll have my money.
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