Sony shows off "sketch and scan" technology with PS3

Posted by Mark Raby

San Francisco (CA) - All the console players are out in force at this week's Game Developers Conference, but Sony has arguably the most technologically innovative concept thanks to its Playstation Eye peripheral.

It's not often you find a high-tech demonstration at a trade show that involves Sharpie markers and a blank piece of paper.  That's what makes Sony's GDC showing so eye-catching, pun intended.

At the very front of the Playstation booth is a display for new Playstation Eye tech demos.  The one that caught our attention the most was the "tank war demo" that showed off the peripheral's "sketch and scan" capabilities.

Using the camera stand that comes packed with Eye of Judgment, the PS Eye was fixed on a view of a blank sheet of paper.  Then, if you draw a character with ink dark enough to be recognized, the PS Eye puts that image into the game.

Sony says that this technology allows the Eye to "create an accurate polygonal outline of image regions," which can be used as in-game characters or textures.

At the risk of making a reference that's too obscure, it reminded me a lot of the Nintendo DS's Pac-n-Roll, a game that required users to physically draw Pac-Man and use stylus gestures to make him move.

The PS Eye came out last year with its flagship title, The Eye of Judgment.  EOJ is a trading card game that uses the PS Eye to bring the game to life.  Users lay down physical cards, as if playing Magic: The Gathering, and the Eye can recognize which cards are played and when they should be removed from the play area.

Other than that, however, the PS Eye has been only scantily utilized.  There is a handful of titles available on the PS3's Playstation Store that allow users to just have fun with different camera and on-screen effects.  And all of these have been created by Sony's first-party studios.

The technology shown here at GDC could literally bring pen and paper RPGs to high-def TV screens.  Right now, though, it's only a tech demo with no confirmed game yet tapped to use the technology.