With Sony’s motion controllers on the way soon, many PS3 owners are as interested in how they will handle non-gaming applications as they are in how they’ll handle first-person shooters and sports titles, if not more so. At PAX East, we got a chance to try out Sony’s Move controller being utilized in ways that will make many see it as much more than just a game controller. In fact, when compared to its evident gaming applications, the Move seems far more impressive as a virtual "hand" than as a way to move characters around a screen.
A Sony representative, in front of a large Sony Bravia TV, gave us a demonstration of many of the Move’s functions outside of traditional games. First off, we were shown a virtual paintbrush program that demonstrated the precision of the Move. Using a single controller, which weighs almost nothing, the rep picked a color from an on-screen color chart. Whichever hue he chose on the screen was reflected in the color of the on-screen paintbrush as well as the tracking ball on the Move itself. It’s not exactly technologically astonishing, but it looked cool, and showed how Sony is trying to physically connect the on-screen action to your actual movements in a way that no other motion controller could. With a color selected, the rep then began painting words on the screen in thick lines of color. By holding the trigger button down only a little, he was able to create thinner lines to add detail to the picture. Obviously, since this was only a tech demo, the painting action was less than perfect, but once again, the remarkable precision of the Move was apparent.
This precision was shown to be adaptable, too. Several different modes of tracking are available to developers, and they’ll be able to use whichever they find most fitting for their game. For example, the Move can be tracked at 100% fidelity, with no correction being made for shaky arms or sudden, tiny motions. This would likely work well for first-person shooters, but more casual game-makers might prefer a smoothed out version of the tracking, which is also available. For other applications, a mode that essentially turns the Move into a 3D mouse might be the best option. This mode only allows the Move’s on-screen cursor to extend to the edges of the screen, letting users reset their range of motion at will. All these tracking methods will give developers and publishers plenty of options, allowing for a more robust overall experience when the Move arrives.
After a brief look at a demo that used two Move controllers to create a virtual, on-screen skeleton of the player, which illustrated how third-person (or is it second-person, since the player is also the character model….) games might be handled, we were shown perhaps the most intriguing piece of software yet for the peripheral. Holding two Move controllers, the representative stood in front of an empty 3D virtual space. He then proceeded to load images, resize them, and place them in the 3D space, all using only the 2 move controllers. Some images were placed behind others, while others were laid flat on the ground. The normally flat images could also be stretched and twisted in almost any direction, creating a truly 3D space. While the technology isn’t quite ready for Minority Report-style desktop computing applications, it’s not unrealistic to suggest that in a few years, it might be feasible. More immediately, the concept of a virtual, customizable, 3D photo gallery springs to mind, as does a revolution in the way we think of first-person graphic adventure games like Myst and The 7th Guest.
So far, pretty much every piece of software we’ve seen for the Move has been simple, unpolished, and not remotely ready for retail sale. That being said, the non-gaming applications shown at PAX East raised a lot of eyebrows, showcasing the system’s accuracy and range of usage potential. We have yet to see or hear exactly how these applications will be taken advantage of in games or in the core PlayStation 3 experience, but the technology should open the system up to nearly limitless possibilities. Hopefully, Sony and its 3rd party developers are able to craft some inventive, highly polished software to support it.
Oh, and for those wondering about the colored ball on the end of the Move; it’s soft, pliable, ostensibly unbreakable, and looks delicious. Especially when lit up in orange or blue.