Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The shortcomings of camera technology

As the realities of the technology that lies within Kinect come to light, gamers are starting to realize that this sort of implementation for motion control has some very severe limitations. When "Project Natal" and "Sony's Wand" were first being introduced to the world last year, it seemed everybody in the gaming press was hot to jump on the bandwagon and suggested that "Nintendo would be beaten at their own game". The technology behind these two competing devices seemed so amazing at their first unveiling, from the concept videos that were shown by Microsoft and Sony. 

Journalists asked Nintendo what they thought of this technology. Knowingly, Nintendo of America's President, Reggie Fils-Aime, had this to say:

"We have been very familiar with that technology. I have personally seen a lot of iterations of similar technology." (Source: Cubed3)

Nintendo had been looking at this type of technology-- Using cameras to track motion-- for Wii long before it was actually born. You don't think so? Don't forget: Sony's been using EyeToy longer than the Wii's been around. Obviously, with the success of the PS2 still strong in the minds of gamers, this was definitely something Nintendo had looked at. 

The problem is, you can't keep a competitive price in-line with strong enough camera hardware to get a great result. So what do you end up with? Specs like the recently revealed ones about Kinect. From Engadget:

  • Field of view is relatively limited, something we could sense when spending time with Kinect at E3. The unit sees 57 degrees of horizontal and 43 degrees of vertical, with a 27 degree physical tilt to keep you in the action.
  • Depth of view is similarly strict, ranging from 4 feet to 11.5 feet.
  • Skeletal tracking is limited to two active players at a time, as we knew, but the system can at least keep its eye on up to six people at once
  • Resolution, because we know you were wondering, is detailed as well: 320 x 240, 16-bit at 30 fps (we're guessing this is the depth camera), 640 x 480, 32-bit color at 30 fps (yeah, this is the color one), and 16-bit audio at 16 kHz.

So, it costs $150, can only be played while standing up, is only good for 2 people at a time, and can't be played from anywhere but directly in front of the screen within 11 feet? Yes, clearly they're going to beat the Wii at their own game.

While none of these exact limitations are confirmed yet for Sony's Move, expect similar ones. If the thing only costs $99 (and you know they can't afford to play razor-and-blades anymore) then a limited depth-of-view and field-of-view are incoming. 

We also already know that Move can't offer "full" four-player local multiplayer support. This, hilariously, has nothing to do with the camera technology, but actually is a product of the limitations of Bluetooth. Sony decided to opt-out of having a cord attaching their remote-and-nunchuk two-handed combo motion controls (for deeper and more complex games) and therefore were forced to use 2 Bluetooth connections per pair. Unfortunately, the PlayStation 3 is limited to a maximum of 7 simultaneous connections.

There are also latency issues with both of the camera-based control setups. Kinect is reported to have a lag of about 1/10 of a second, which is decidedly more lag than Wii, and Sony's Move is reported to lag a bit as well, and is discernably inferior to Wii.

If latency wasn't a problem, and the motion control's latency ability with these two systems were on-par with Wii's barely-noticeable latency, would that be good enough anyway? These systems have "multi-core processors" and "hard drives" and "HD capability"! Surely they can outperform the tiny little Wii in something as "simple" as "casual motion controls"... Right? ...Right???

1 comment :

  1. A friend of mine posted a video of Move on facebook and asked another friend if he'd seen it. He said "Yeah, I saw it on E3, it looks 1000% better than garbage Wii"

    I was like... I don't even know what I was like. I was sad, though.

    Led here, btw.