Page last updated at 08:16 GMT, Wednesday, 3 June 2009 09:16 UK

Sony joins new 'controller wars'

By Daniel Emery
BBC technology reporter, Los Angeles

Sony shows off its motion controller and camera system

Sony has given the public the first view of its new game controller for the Sony PlayStation 3.

The Motion Controller for PS3 uses two controllers that work in conjunction with the Sony PlayStation Eye.

The firm said it was a technology demo, but then said the new system would be available early next year.

The news follows Microsoft's announcement on Monday of a controller-free control system it is calling Project Natal.

3D gaming

The Motion Controller for PS3 works in a similar way to Nintendo's Wii controller. A sensor sits on top of the TV and detects the position, distance and movement of two controllers held in a user's hand.

Compared to Project Natal, [the Sony controller] didn't look quite so compelling
Steve Boxer
Games writer, The Guardian

The device can not only measure where the controllers are in relation to each other, but also how close they are to the sensor, meaning you can create true 3D movement within a game.

The creator of the Sony EyeToy, Dr Richard Marks, who heads up the team developing the Motion Controller for PS3, said the new system was sparking the imagination of game developers.

"We expect this to be a great casual gamers' experience, but we also want to enable some more gamers' games. We think this would be a great experience too," he said.

During the demonstration, the developers showed what the Sony PlayStation Controller was capable of, enabling users to wield weapons, fire a bow and arrow, write on screen and manipulate objects in a virtual environment.

"One thing that is really difficult to do in a virtual world is drawing," said Mr Marks.

"And in particular, writing requires extreme precision. [The controller can be measured] to sub-millimetre accuracy."

Overly optimistic?

Speaking to the BBC, the Guardian newspaper's games writer, Steve Boxer, said he was not convinced the controller would be ready by spring next year.

Demonstration of Sony's motion-control prototype at E3 in LA, 2 June
The PS3 motion controller can simulate 3D movement within a game

"I thought the basic idea behind the controller was sound and could lead to some interesting gameplay, but it was very much a tech demo, and compared to [Microsoft's] Project Natal, it didn't look quite so compelling," he said.

"But kudos to Sony for recognising the need to make some sort of physical controller," he added.

Sony Computer Entertainment President Kaz Hirai told the BBC that they were very pleased with the new technology and played down claims that Microsoft's Project Natal has taken some of the edge off their launch.

"With PlayStation 2, when we launched the EyeToy camera, we had already perfected the art of playing games just using your hands," he said.

"The motion controller we demoed today, it raises the bar in terms of accuracy in 3D. It's all about the accuracy and tracking."

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