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Eye Toy
game: Eye Toy
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
date posted: 12:00 AM Sat Jun 14th, 2003
last revision: 12:00 AM Sat Jun 14th, 2003

By Monica Hafer

Sony is looking to ramp up on its hardware in an effort to compete in a market that looks to finally be pushing them to make inroads where they have hitherto been leery to tread. E3 saw the announcement of several such devices: the launch of a USB headset for the PS2 with Voice Over Internet Protocol and voice recognition technologies to enhance both online and offline gameplay (being released in September at a suggested retail of $29), a PS2 Online Pack (PS2 along with the Network Adaptor at the same price point as the original PS2), the PlayStation Personal (PSP), and what especially caught my interest, the Eye Toy.

The Eye Toy is basically a USB camera that uses motion tracking technology to project player images on screen for a unique interactive videogaming experience. This technology was developed in conjunction with Logitech, the pioneers who paved the way in webcam technology, and was over nine and a half months in development. The device is around the same size as a webcam and utilizes the same visual/aesthetic style as the PS2 for its outward appearance. It sits on top of your television and can be adjusted for players of different heights so that both parents and children can play. And speaking of children, the Eye Toy was tested for ease of use for kids. As Ron Festejo (a producer connected with London Studios) told me, the device was designed to be "both elegant in design and pretty much indestructible."

The Eye Toy was shown on the E3 floor using a white screen background, but according to a spokesperson for Logitech, there is no problem with any background from your own livingroom, but lighter background colors will help to visually separate you from the action onscreen. He did warn, however, that since the device uses motion tracking technology, that other movement in the background (such as blowing curtains, etc.) can interfere with your gaming.

The Eye Toy games are apparently using just a small part of the technology available and most everyone who saw the device being shown piped up with a dozen or more possible gaming applications that it could be used for. The beauty of this particular technology is that you can use any body part to produce results in your game. It is designed to capture motion from the waist up, but I saw one player do a high kick during a cartoon-style Kung Fu martial arts game to beat off the bad guys. You can use your head, your elbows?basically any body part that can produce motion. I myself thought this would be the perfect system to design dancing games for later on in its evolution. Festejo commented that this device could be used to decrease sedentary gameplay, increase parent/child interaction, and might some day have applications for motor skills acquisition or rehabilitation. Much of what can be done with this will depend on game developers. I asked if he foresaw problems with fighting games using a person's image causing an uproar as it has in the past, but he says that are always designers who are willing to take up the challenge to give gamers what they want, and all such decisions would be at the discretion of future developers.

There are twelve mini-games that will be sold with the device, ranging from window washing races (watch the bird droppings!) to music and puzzle solving. It seems the initial titles are attempting to be non-age specific so as to be appealing to that aforementioned parent/child interaction. The Eye Toy is scheduled to be released in October for a suggested retail price of $39, and I am excited to see just how far this technology will be taken.