Dr. Richard Marks, a lead R&D manager at Sony and inventor of the EyeToy, demoed and talked about the new PS3 Move for the keynote talk to kick off Games for Health 2010. Dr. Marks showed some demos of ideas he had before he created the EyeToy, before there were even rumors of the Wii, early versions of what would eventually be the Playstation Move. The technology was very impressive, but apparently was not feasible for mass marketing at the time.
Dr. Marks then went on to demo various applications of the PS3 Move itself. The PS3 Move is an interactive technology consisting of a controller and a camera connected to the PS3. The camera can detect the user’s face and controller’s 3D position in space, and the controller also contains gyroscopes and accelerometers to detect 3D rotational movements. In the first demo the Move controller was turned into a sword and various other objects on-screen. The accuracy and response time of the 1:1 movements of the player and the onscreen object blew the audience away. The next demo had Dr. Marks using his controller as a paint brush. In another demo he had two controllers in each hand and controlled an on-screen puppet. The puppet also moved side to side based on his face movement.
The technology seems incredibly promising, and potentially could have many non-gaming health-realted applications (e.g: rehab, exergaming etc…) Luckily we here at Medgadget got a chance to sit down with Dr. Richard Marks to explore the technology and it’s health-related potential. Check out the interview after the break.
The early work you were doing with EyeToy looked very similar to this, were you limited by some technology at the time?
The balls were bigger. The lighting in the room was really dependent then, so we had to have really good lighting. We kind of solved that. I avoided doing a light source. At the time red-green-blue LEDs weren’t really popular or low cost. The idea of making a wireless controller, until we got to PS3, wasn’t so viable. PS2 had a wired controller. If you have a Li-ion battery and an RGB LED that can change, then you have the whole package together. There was some limitation in technology. You don’t get the angle data very well from the camera, so that comes from gyros in the controller. If we did this 7 years ago it would be over $100 per controller.
So when people claim that PS3 is a Wii clone do you show them your early work and say you have proof your ideas are original?
We do have proof. I don’t want to be defensive, because I think the Wii did a great job with what it did. We did a great job with the EyeToy. I just want it all to get better across the industry. I’m sure the next thing they will do will be something awesome too.
What’s the cost?
1 controller, a camera and a game will be under $100.
What’s the next secret project you’re not allowed to tell us about?
*laughs* Well… we’re gonna work on other technology for user interfaces. That’s what area I cover. We’ll do a little bit more with this controller. There are still gameplay mechanics that the game teams might not have resource to investigate, so we’ll try to do some of that for them; make some more tech demos that show how you might use the controller in a new way. Then we’ll start work on other technology. Take things further. Not exactly sure yet what, probably couldn’t say yet.
But there is something?
Yeah, there’s always more to do. The user interface space is not dead.
Have you ever read Medgadget.com?
No, actually… Well I read one article.
It wasn’t sexy CPR was it?
No. *semi-uncomfortable laughter* What’s the gadget in that?
Ummm… We have very broadly defined what a medgadget is…
Has there been much of a push for health-oriented software?
Our London office has a game that kinda keeps track of calories and things on a rough level. The EyeToy has been used in the industry a little bit. There hasn’t been a big push for it by our company.
So it’s “If you build it they will come”?
It’s been like that more. I really want to change that a little bit. Part of the reason for coming here is really that. I want to make it an impetus of our company. And our biz dev people are starting to look at new areas. So it’s a good time for them to get more info I think. So I’m going to get a barrage of emails from this conference and forward it all to them!
Since active games and exergames have been big lately, do you have any views on what would bring active games to the next level?
I feel that Nintendo did a good job of squeezing what they could out of how much technology is really there. Wii Fit does not have very much technology. Even the original Wiimote, it didn’t have as much technology as everyone thought it did. What it had they capitalized on really well. Our design strategy is that we need to give a complete answer to people and let them figure out if they can use this data for games. I think that’s what we felt was missing. They are kinda taking the little bit of data they have and doing as much as they can with it. Everyone else tries to do something a little bit more, and they can’t do anything more. They hit a dead end. Same thing happened with EyeToy when we made it. We had this motion detection and you could do this certain level. Then everyone is like “let’s do the next level,” and they hit a wall. And we don’t want that to happen where you just say “I can’t do the next thing now, I’m stuck.” We want to have a full solution to what people think they have and what they really do have.
Is there exergaming software for the PS3 Move in the works?
There is one game announced that has some calorie tracking in it. I do expect something else soon.
On boredom and exergaming:
That’s what I think the exercise community is looking for from the game industry. A way to hide the boredom. I didn’t get to talk about that today. In the exercise community now there are a lot of new techniques that people are exploring. Muscle confusion is this big thing now. You don’t do the same thing ever. Other things that hardcore athlete trainers believe one set is the right amount. That sounds like a dream, except that you have to be careful because it has to be one set at your maximum energy level. You can get hurt easily doing that. The fitness area has got a lot of new things going on. I think video games really could hide a lot of the boredom.
In terms of rehab and other non-gaming applications for this technology there isn’t as much a financial incentive. How would you like to see that area develop?
Sony won’t make those games. It’s possible we could facilitate those games to be created by somebody else. That’s the hard part I want us to solve. We started a group in our company that’s looking at non-game applications. They would be more small market and targeted. We have the ability to lend the development kit to universities. There are ways we can already get academics up and running, but that’s still not solving how we can get into other markets.
Read more about the PS3 Move here…