Monday, September 7, 2009

EyePet: The Tech Demo That Isn't

In 2008, Sony was showing off videos of something called EyePet, a digital monkey that would use the camera attachment for the PS3 to interact with gamers and their immediate environment. The demos showed the strangely cute quasi-monkey being petting by the gamers, learning to draw, and interacting with items digitally manipulated by the gamer. And just about no one took it seriously.

Later this year, EyePet will come out. And according to reviews popping up around the internet, it will deliver. Just about everything Sony showed, the EyePet does. The quasi-monkey can learn to draw. And he interact with objects you draw. If you draw a car, he may well drive away. You can pet the quasi-monkey, or feed him. Presumably, if so inclined, you could beat him like a drum. Take just about everything we saw in the Milo demo at E3 for Microsoft's Project Natal, and the EyePet is slated to deliver it on a smaller (and cuter) scale later this year.

Now we are still a long way from Natal-style purely motion gaming. The PS3 camera is not Natal. It isn't close to Natal, and no one, including Sony, is billing it as Natal. Regardless, Sony has put together an entertainment package that brings game elements with real-time motion capture and player-game interaction via controller gestures. This will be just about the first time the average (PS3 owning) person will be able to play with this type of set up first hand. As a result, this will be one the first indicators as to whether controllerless gaming is something that gamers actually want. An early indicator, but an indicator to be sure. Since motion-controlled gaming seems to be the wave of the future, it is an indicator well worth watching.

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