IT & Systems Management

Sony working on eye tracking for future PlayStation 4s

At some point, every console noob struggles to line up that perfect shot with just a pair of joysticks. Sony may have found the answer to that problem: eye tracking.

In a video released just at about the time of the PlayStation 4 launch last week, executives at Sony's R&D department, the Magic Lab, showed off the technology--currently billed as an "experiment"--in a video posted to GameTrailers. Sony executives have billed the PS4 hardware as "supercharged," with a scheduled ten-year lifecycle.

Sony launched the PS4 last week, and the reviews were, in a word, limited. Since so much of today's entertainment world takes place online, reviewers felt that evaluating the games and services required some time to allow the user and development community to grow. To foster continued interest in the platform, Sony appears to be preparing to upgrade the PS4 at some point in time.

It's reasonable, then, that with such a long life, that Sony will either tweak the hardware itself, the firmware, or add in new peripherals. And Sony offered a peek under the hood of what it's working on.

"There's lot of ways where we can use eye tracking, actually," said Richard Marks, Sony's head of research and development. "We can steer the camera around, whatever you're interested in it'll move the camera automatically to look at it, as kind of an of an aiming mechanism, so if you want to shoot or cast a spell in a certain direction, it just does it in whichever direction you're looking."

The eye tracking could also prompt the system to highlight things you're looking at, from enlarging menu options to simply tracking and responding to your interest. Marks gave no indication that eye tracking would head in the direction of VR goggles like the Oculus Rift, but there are similarities.

The technology is being developed by SensoMotoric Instruments, a Berlin-based developer, as part of its RED-oem platform. "We believe that gaze interaction creates an amazing new experience for gaming and we're excited to work with global players like Sony to make our Eye Tracking Technology ready for the gaming market," said Christian Villwock, director of SMI's OEM solutions business, in a statement.

Eye tracking has also been proposed for the PC, with companies like Tobii showing off the technology at the 2012 version of the Consumer Electronics Show.

Sony also said that it is working with NASA's JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), in a project designed to let you feel like you're exploring space, alongside NASA, within the PlayStation 4 interface.

"We think that when people get a PlayStation 4, that's just the beginning," Marks said.

After the simplicity of a mouse and keyboard, gamers thrust into the console space often feel like they're ice skating on stilts. With eye tracking, that transition should become much, much smoother.


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