Next-gen PlayStation to sense user emotions

Sony will pioneer the concept of letting users interact with computers using hand gestures, eye movements and even emotions, in future versions of its PlayStation console.

Sony will pioneer the concept of letting users interact with computers using hand gestures, eye movements and even emotions, in future versions of its PlayStation console.

Sony is planning to enable future versions of its PlayStation gaming console to recognise user gestures and even emotions, according to an executive. The PlayStation 3 may also incorporate a motion sensor and camera add-on known as EyeToy.

Consoles such as the 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. Companies in the PC realm are also working on alternative ways for users to interact with computers.

Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) vice president Phil Harrison told an Australian newspaper that "future generations" of Sony PlayStations will include motion-sensor and camera hardware similar to that found in the EyeToy PlayStation 2 peripheral. Harrison, speaking to the Australian Financial Review, didn't mention the PlayStation 3 specifically, but the remarks suggest it is likely to incorporate current hardware when it launches in 2005.

Following generations of consoles will include more complex motion recognition, allowing users to control games via eye movements, gestures and complex finger movements, Harrison said, comparing these controls to the motion-sensor interfaces in the film "Minority Report".

Harrison said Sony researchers are developing facial-expression-recognition software which, working 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 emotion 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 accordingly. "If somebody is watching [a show] and starts to slump back and lose the will to live," said Harrison, "[the computer] might suggest some other forms of entertainment."

However, Harrison admits that technology wouldn't show up until the PS4 at the earliest. "It's within the realm of technical believability today, but it requires a supercomputer to do it," he said.

ZDNet U.K.'s Matthew Broersma reported from London and GameSpot.com's Tor Thorsen contributed to this report.

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