Your PS3 Is Watching You

PlayStation 3 (PS3) owners will be able to see and be seen this summer with a new accessory for its next-generation gaming console Sony announced Thursday. The PlayStation Eye is an intelligent camera and noise-canceling microphone that the game maker said will expand and boost gaming and communication options.

“With the release of PlayStation Eye, we will be able to dramatically enhance the consumer’s PS3 experience,” said Richard Marks, research and development at Sony Computer Entertainment America. “Beyond audio/video chat and the ability to save videos to your PS3 hard drive, PlayStation Eye opens up a whole new world of entertainment options and adds a new dimension to games across multiple genres.”

Watching and Listening

The PlayStation Eye is the successor to the EyeToy USB camera built for the PlayStation 2. The PlayStation Eye was designed specifically to work with the next generation of social gaming titles and new services being developed for the PlayStation 3, according to Sony.

The device features a host of technical improvements, including a four-microphone array that incorporates multidirectional voice location tracking and enhanced echo canceling.

The microphone also includes background noise suppression that reduces ambient noise such as a barking dog or a rotating fan. The technology adds up to allow gamers to conduct clear audio chats in noisy environments. No handset is necessary, said Sony.

The PlayStation Eye’s camera boasts a 120 frames-per-second rate for improved tracking, responsiveness and smoothness, as well as a two-position zoom lens for either close-up video chats or full-body game play. The camera has also been designed to operate in low-light environments.

Sony plans to release the product this summer, but has set no specific date or price for the device.

“We have not set a price for the camera just yet,” Jennifer Clark, a Sony America spokesperson, told TechNewsWorld, “but will do so in the coming months as it will release in summer.

“You will be able to use the camera for online chat through the cross media bar,” she continued. “It is to be determined what games will implement the technology.”

Living Room Accessory

“The purpose is to try and increase the appeal of the PS3,” Brian O’Rourke, a senior analyst at InStat, told TechNewsWorld. “My impression is that this has been coming down the pipe for a while and is not a reaction to perceived slow sales of the PS3.”

The hybrid camera/microphone device connects to the PS3 via one of the console’s USB ports. Bundled with the device, EyeCreating editing software enables users to save photos, videos and audio content on the PS3’s hard drive and add a variety of visual effects. However, all video and audio files produced using the PlayStation Eye can only be used with EyeCreate and cannot be exported.

This camera is meant to appeal to a more casual audience than the hardcore gamers who traditionally are early adopters of new gaming consoles, O’Rourke explained — especially when the bundled software is included.

“Sony would like nothing better than for users to edit their video and photos on the PS3 rather than the PC because Sony does not have a huge chunk of the PC market,” O’Rourke explained. “If they could get you do to things you normally do on you PC on the PS3, that is a huge win for them.

“The more time you spend on the PS3 for them, the better,” he concluded. “It makes a lot of sense from their perspective. The PS3 and Xbox are fairly expensive machines meant to appeal first and foremost to hardcore gamers. And they would like to expand the appeal of their respective consoles outside of that.”

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