Talking to Sony's senior researcher Richard Marks, he tells us why the upcoming PlayStation Move won't just be another Wii, why Sony passed on Kinect technology and how Move is comparable to $100k surgery simulators...
Q: Could you go through the process of how you designed move. Were you looking specifically at devices like the Wii?
Richard Marks: PlayStation Move is the direct result of the work we did with EyeToy, so we really did start with the camera portion. Back in the year 2000 one of the tech demos we were doing, even back then, involved a coloured ball on a stick and we were trying to track that around. So we were trying to do the same sort of thing with EyeToy, but we couldn't do it reliably or accurately enough to be a good gaming interface.
We did as much as we could with just a camera: that was my focus. But we kept running into problems, you couldn't do all the experiences we wanted to do and also around that time DualShock was coming out for PlayStation 3, it had built-in censors and gyros that gave different kinds of information about rotation, whereas the camera could give a lot of position information.
So combining the two made a lot of sense. And also the big other factor that we were realising at the time was that it feels good to have something in your hand for a lot of games. It's not just that it gives you more input capability, which it does. But also it just feels right. Like if you have a tennis racket it feels better to have a controller in your hand. If you have a magic wand, a sword, a gun, it all feels better.
Q: So you weren't interested in trying to shed the remote all together like Kinect inevitably did?
RM: We were very interested in it in 2004. But then we just decided it wasn't a viable product in our minds. EyeToy can already do a lot of that already. We hit a lot of the same limits with the 3D camera that we had hit with EyeToy so it didn't seem like it added enough value.
I had demonstrations with the 3D camera where you're just casting spells or drawing. Doing it with your fingers is kind of neat but in the end it feels awkward. I would often just pick up a stick and it felt better.
Also around that time was when the Wii was coming out. The goal with EyeToy was to have a new way to play games and have something that people who wouldn't normally play would play. The Wii had also accomplished that a little bit with a very simple controller. So we realised we didn't have to get rid of the controller as long as we didn't make it too complicated. [The controller] was easy to use, you could get all the benefits of having buttons. But we could also have all the benefits of tracking the controller with a camera, and that's when we basically started the productisation of Move. We pay attention to what's going on [in the market], to the Wii in particular. We tracked how successful that was. With Kinect, we had already made our decisions of what to do design-wise before Kinect. We had already been working with the 3D camera before that.
Q: Design-wise how much inspiration did you get looking at the Wii.
RM: Our design metaphor is very different. The Wii is really going for a remote control metaphor. [Move is] focused more like a handle. Like the handle of a baseball bat, or a tennis racket, or a sword, or even a gun maybe. So it really feels like something you would want to hold in your hand and it feels good in your hand. It's tapered because smaller hands will hold it up higher, closer to the buttons, whereas bigger hands will be further away from the buttons. It also slips less easily because it's tapered, that's a well known handle design thing, like axes and things like that do. Maybe it would be impossible to make a one handed device that people wouldn't compare to Wii. But I don't think it looks very much like it. Maybe the thing is we have one big action button, I mean we already have the PlayStation buttons part of our design so. The navigation controller does have a very different set up of buttons than on the nunchuck. There's no d-pad on a nun chuck. It's not inspired by the Wii but of course the Wii already existed when this was designed.