E3 2009: New Video Game UIs!

It's too early to say which will do better, and I haven't had a chance to play around with the tech yet. I suspect it'll ultimately boild down to whether or not anyone can build a killer app for the camera. Who's gonna make the next Wii Sports?

There were a lot of announcements from this year’s E3 conference, including all sorts of fun, awesome games that I can’t wait to try out. It seems like the conference is getting back to something of its former glory after a few years of mediocrity. Even the booth babes were back!

However, the most exciting announcement by far (in my book) was that both Microsoft and Sony seem really dedicated to doing new, exciting things with user interfaces. Microsoft announced project Natal, which seems to be a camera that uses both the visible and IR spectrums to make some 3D guesses about where a user is and what they’re doing. I’m a bit dubious of the tech as there is no controller involved (what happens when users get tired?) and a straight up camera has other limitations based on the environment. However, Microsoft apparently has Johnny Won working on the project, which makes me feel a lot better. Let’s see what he can come up with.

Sony unveiled their own new tech with the PS3 Eye, and Rick Marks spoke about the advancements they had made with the tech since last year. They used a weird controller with glowing bulbs to help with camera tracking problems, and while this may seem less sexy than Natal I believe the controller will ultmately be more reliable as a result. It’ll also be nice to be able to push buttons on occasion if the user wants to. The Eye also has a microphone array so it can do voice detection – I assume the Natal does also but I haven’t seen anything about that yet. Rick’s a super smart guy (I got to chat with him last year at MIT) and I’ve got a lot of faith in his work too.

So will either, both, or neither of these controllers be successful? Time will tell.