Future PlayStations to read hand gestures

Sony is planning to let players interact with games using hand gestures, eye movements and emotion sensors in upcoming versions of its PlayStation console, according to a report.

Sony is planning to enable future versions of its PlayStation gaming console to recognize user gestures and even emotions, according to a company executive. The PlayStation 3 may also incorporate a motion sensor and camera add-on similar to Sony's EyeToy.

Phil Harrison, a vice president at Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE), told the Australian Financial Review newspaper that "future generations" of PlayStations will include motion-sensor and camera hardware similar to that found in the EyeToy, a peripheral device for the PlayStation 2. While Harrison didn't mention the PlayStation 3 specifically, his remarks suggest it is likely to incorporate current hardware upon its scheduled launch in 2005.

Consoles such as Sony's PlayStation 2, Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube are seen as a testing ground for bringing new technologies such as broadband into the home and making them more user-friendly. Consumer electronics companies, software makers and PC makers are looking at ways of linking devices such as gaming consoles, digital video recorders, PCs and televisions. PC companies are also working on alternative ways for people to interact with computers.

Harrison said that later generations of PlayStation consoles will include more-complex motion recognition, allowing users to control games using eye movements, gestures and complex finger movements. He compared these controls to the motion-sensor interfaces depicted in the film "Minority Report."

Sony's Qiro robot, a prototype humanoid robot that the company expects to bring to the market in the relatively near future, also comes with a battery of motion and sound sensors.

Harrison said Sony researchers are developing recognition software for facial expressions that, in tandem with a camera, could sense users' emotions. "The logical next step is to deduce from a person's facial expression and demeanor what their emotional state is," he said. "If you can attach very high-resolution, low-cost video cameras (to computers), you can deduce some quite interesting things about their users."

Harrison envisioned a day where a PlayStation could not only sense a player's emotional reaction to entertainment, but offer advice. "If somebody is watching (a show) and starts to slump back and lose the will to live, (the computer) might suggest some other forms of entertainment," he said.

However, Harrison admits that technology wouldn't show up until the PlayStation 4 at the earliest. "It's within the realm of technical believability today, but it requires a supercomputer to do it," he said.

Matthew Broersma of ZDNet UK reported from London. GameSpot.com's Tor Thorsen contributed to this report.

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