The tech behind PlayStation Move

We’ve had very few bones to chew on since Sony first announced its Motion Controller at E3 last year, but Sony’s GDC keynote last night finally gave us some meat to chew on.

On the face of it perhaps the biggest surprise surrounding the PlayStation Move is its similarity to the Wii. While Microsoft’s Natal is opting for a totally different, peripheral-less route, Move will very much mirror Wii’s twin-stick set-up – though talk from developers suggests that Sony’s technology offers a far greater level of precision.

Every technology needs a headliner, however, and Sony’s is clearly the visually striking coloured ball that sits atop of the Move.

The key thing here is that the ball changes colour. When activated the PSEye scans the room for colour – the Move’s ball then changes to whatever colour it decides will offer the highest contrast against the ambient surroundings, thus improving the accuracy of the motion tracking.

Last night also saw the first glimpse of the Move’s sub-controller – Sony’s equivalent of the Wii Nunchuck. Notably the sub-controller is wireless, removing the sometimes difficult tethering that plagues Nintendo’s controller duo.

It’s also interesting to see that Move has fewer buttons on its stick than Nintendo’s device. Seeing as one of the key thrusts behind the new motion control epidemic is opening up gaming to a wider audience, this decision makes perfect sense and is another example of Sony taking Nintendo’s design ethos and running with it.

Other points of note include the fact that the Move doesn’t need batteries. Instead it recharges via mini-USB much like the DualShock 3. Good for cost-cutting, but what will players face a enforced break in the gaming when they need to recharge?

The fact that Sony’s tech works by allowing the PSEye to track to coloured orb also eradicates other problems seen with the Wii tech. Games can cope with the Move being pointed off-screen, and the fact that it doesn’t rely on internal gyroscopes means that high-tempo movements are less likely to cause unpredictable and erratic responses.

Ultimately, though, any new gaming device lives or dies by its software. The reaction to Sony’s GDC line-up has been mixed. The solid technology has certainly impressed attendees, but the Wii-like software selection less so.

Eyes now turn to E3 where we hope to see some more fresh ideas and applications for Move.

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