Retro Monday: “The Eye Toy”

Product: EyeToy

Released for: PlayStation 2

Released on: October 2003

Made by: Logitech

 

This is going to be another one of those look back at a thing rather then a game ‘Retro Monday’. Like what I said with the PSP. But that is because next week I’m going a EyeToy game. More on that next week. Now, the EyeToy.

The EyeToy was a peripheral for the PlayStation 2. It was the precursor to Sony’s current “PS Eye” and Microsoft’s literal must-have “Kinect”. The idea came to Richard Marks, a technology consultant at the time, when he was wondering the 1999 Game Developers Conference and saw a demo of the PS2. His idea was to add a camera, microphone and so enable natural user interfacing, which motion controls via a camera device. If you’re annoyed with ‘Kinect’ controls Microsoft have been forcing on you, you now know whom to blame.

Marks soon caught the eye of Phil Harrison, then Vice President of Third Party Relations and Research and Development at Sony Computer Entertainment America, (now Vice President of Microsoft oddly enough) who, when promoted to Senior Vice President of Product Development at Sony’s European division, brought Marks on board.

The camera was designed to fit with the original PS2 design, the big, blocky black one, so the case that held all the technology together was designed with that in mind. It ended up being black and having those old PS2 square ridges on the side. In the case was a 320 camera (come on, it was 2003) a microphone and two LED lights. One light was to say it was connected and on, the other was to say there wasn’t enough light. Dedicating a whole light to saying “there isn’t enough light” shows what the main problem with the came ended up being. More on that later.

The whole thing was connected with a USB 1.1 cable and sat on a pivot making it easy to point at where you wanted it to point. There was also focusing ring on the lens so there was never the problem of it getting confused and spending a few minutes auto-focusing an angry man throwing a disgruntled shoe at it.

I have an EyeToy and it was alright. It was always designed and made as a peripheral to the PS2 so there was never a problem of a game saying “connect your EyeToy and shout at me like I’m you bitch”. The games you played with it were just party games. Pretty much the catalogue of the Wii. The leading series was “EyeToy Play”, a game that consisted of a selection of mini-games where you wave your arms about like your having a seizure. After a few editions, it even got you to run on the spot and lean from side to side. It made you exercise. There even was a fitness game co-developed by Nike that put you in to an exercise regime. It worked too. Back then, I was fit. Now I’m just a wobbling jelly of a man. More on that next week…

As I said earlier, the leading problem of the camera was it connection with light. The concept of light seemed foreign to it to the point where you would have all the windows open wide and all the house lights on, at one in the afternoon. You didn’t have to do that but if you didn’t there would be so much background noise you would be totally invisible to the camera.

Is the history goes, it wasn’t the first console camera. That prize goes to the 2000 “Dreameye” for the Dreamcast. Considering it was made for the Dreamcast, it is pretty easy to see the impact it had. Designed as a still camera peripheral and only released in Japan, it had an imaging editing game (think of the DSi) and then folded with the rest of the console. After the EyeToy in 2006 came the “Xbox Live Vision”, a web cam. That’s really it. It was just 640 web cam for the 360. To prove it’s only a web cam look at the devices you can use it with:

  • XBox 360,
  • PC (XP and higher),
  • Mac OS X,
  • And PS3.

Yeah, you can use the XBox peripheral on the PS3. Can’t see them doing that with the Kinect.

For the current generation there is Sony’s ‘PlayStation Eye’ (PS3) and ‘Playstation Camera’ (PS4). The Eye is just the ‘EyeToy 2’ while the ‘Camera’ is Sony’s version of the Kinect. But the PS Camera remains a peripheral. The Kinect is always being pushed as part of the Xbox One to the point where it is a mandatory part always sold in a bundle with the console.

 

The EyeToy was the start of the user interface, wavy-hand control craze and it isn’t going away. It’s just sad to see that Sony have let themselves be beaten to the visual punch when they swung first. It’s turning not into a ‘who swung first’ fight but a ‘who swings hardest’ fight. No matter what happens, the consoles now have eyes. Just get worried when they start talking back. What… Siri? But she sounds so… nice and… er…

ALL HAIL THE COMPUTERIZED OVERLORDS!

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