Changing the Game
On November 4, just in time for the holiday crunch, stores got their first shipments of the EyeToy, a cameralike device that captures images of a player and inserts them into a PlayStation 2 game’s virtual world (think The Matrix in real life). The innovation was envisioned by Richard Marks, the man behind “man-machine interface” research at Sony.
From Richard’s original entry:
Tell us what you do and the specific challenge you faced.
I manage the Special Projects group for the Research and Development arm of Sony Computer Entertainment America, responsible for Man-Machine Interface and Physical Simulation research. My focus is real-time video input to the PlayStation(R)2 computer entertainment system- basically, I developed the technology of EyeToy(TM), a revolutionary device that transforms body movement into gameplay. Think real-life Matrix. The challenge was to create a game interface that enhanced the interactive experience and was accessible to a wide audience. My background (avionics at MIT, Ph.D. at Stanford using computer vision for controlling robots) led me to choose video as the interface. There have been attempts in the past to create new interfaces, but only within the last three years have systems been able to handle full-resolution, full-speed video. It’s a testament to the power of the PlayStation 2 that this can be done on a console. I created the underlying technology that allows players to instantly become the main character in their own game, making the world of interactive entertainment a reality. EyeToy was intended to be a tool that will change the future of gaming. My son’s favorite character is Spiderman, in the future my goal is to watch my son play – him seeing a video of himself, but his body will be texture-mapped with a Spiderman outfit, and with a flick his wrist, virtual webbing will shoot out at an enemy.
What was your moment of truth?
After grad school, I joined a computer vision start-up that was acquired, and then dismantled. While consulting for a year, I attended the 1999 Game Developer Conference just for fun, and I witnessed the U.S. unveiling of the PlayStation 2. I got excited, thinking to myself, “That little black box will be able to do things no one can imagine.” I especially realized its potential for image processing/computer vision, so I submitted my resume to the R&D group, and here we are today.
What were the results?
EyeToy has enjoyed success across the board. After launching in Europe, EyeToy reigned as the top-selling video game for five weeks straight, selling over one million games in less than four months. EyeToy launched in the United States on November 4, drawing significant media attention, and enjoyed a successful holiday season with estimated worldwide sales expected to reach 4 million by the end of March 2004. Third party developers have already begun looking at EyeToy-related applications for future games. More importantly, with no gaming experience or controller necessary, EyeToy opens the door to new gamers and expands the overall market.
What’s your parting tip?
Concept and technology are just pieces of the puzzle – none of this would have come together without the help and support of Sony Computer Entertainment America and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe.