Sony is set to bring the PS3 console to the next level in the Fall this year, with the introduction of their new (and very odd looking) motion sensing technology. The motion controller has been referred to as the sphere, Gem, and the wand, but is now being named, ARC. Using a Wii-mote style controller with a large colour changing, light ball on the end, user are able to experience true One to One tracking. The controller works with the already released Playstation Eye, and it uses different colors to recognize the wand, and follow it on a sub-pixel level. The wand itself has a built in three-axes gyroscope and and a three-axes accelerometer similar again to the Wiimote.
The software used to run this technology, takes information from the Eye, including a 60 frame per second video stream, and matches it with the position of the glowing sphere. It can then work out the depth of the sphere by its size (The further away the user is, the smaller the sphere will be) and show a true representation of the hand movements in the virtual world.
The device has been in development since 2008 and was the brain child of the PS Eye creator, Richard Marks. He says they have been working with developers from the ideas conception making sure that the device is something that the developers will want to work with. Sony have opted for the handheld controller over ideas like Project Natal because they say some games just need buttons, and so the ARC has several standard buttons on its face and back. These buttons come in particularly handy for FPS games when you can use the ARC to aim and one of the buttons to fire. The FPS game was one of the features highlighted in the technologies first demo, along with some other great looking games. These included a sword play game where the user can take 2 wands (one in each hand, obviously!), and use one as a sword and the other as a shield. These games will also work with just one Arc controller and Sony are working on using the current Dualshock controller as a second Arc. It will use the same technology as the normal Arc, except that the Eye will follow the lights on the Dualshock controller as well.
At present, the software is only capable of tracking a maximum of four Arcs, but Sony are trying to incorporate more Arcs for family and casual games. There is also a possibility of voice commands being integrated in to games as the PS Eye has 4 built in microphones, capable of noise cancellation and working out the direction the sound came from.
The demo also showed an paint program that allows the user to control various tools, like a paint brush, a spray can, or a pen. The detail of the pen is unbelievable. The ARC is able to detect how close you are to the Eye and can then transfer this info in to how far away your spray can is to the canvas. I would say its as good as any graphics tablet on the market.
Other game demos on show was an archery simulation, which looks like a lot of fun, and a sort of play room with blocks to move about,and various handheld objects for the user to pick up. The demo shows a virtual tennis racket, baseball bat, a torch and an electrified whip. Imagine the possibilities! As well as these games that are being made specifically for the Arc, Sony are also planing to make it backward compatible with games already available. No details are available of how far back it will go, but this is something that Project Natal will not be capable of doing, so its definitely a good move from Sony.
So far, there are 8 known titles that are being developed, including Ape Escape, Echochrome 2, Champions Of Time, and The Shoot. There will also be updates via the PSN for games like Pain, High Velocity Bowling, Hustle Kings and Eyepet.
Sony had planned a spring 2010 release for the ARC, but have since knocked it back to the Fall, giving developers a chance to get games ready that use the device. This removes a huge advantage they had over Microsoft’s Project Natal, as it is planned for a Christmas release. If it had been released on schedule, ARC would have had a half a year head start on its rivals, but now its pretty much going to go head to head with the Xbox’s ambitious technology. Who can topple the Wii from its interactive, multi million dollar making, throne? We’ll have to wait until the end of the year to find out!