Sony shows off Cell chip with Eye Toy-like demo
The power of the Cell processor was demonstrated with a “digital mirror” at the CEATEC 2005 conference held in Japan.
The booth of joint Cell developers, Sony, Toshiba and IBM featured a real-time “digital mirror” simulator powered by the cell processor. A model was seated in front of the simulator that was then able to display a 3D model of the person that matched the movements and facial expressions (!) of the person in real-time.
In order to create a 3D model of the face of the person sitting in front of the camera, the processor first mapped 500 coordinates. Details such as hair and makeup were then superimposed onto the 3D model. To keep up with changing facial expressions and positioning, all 500 coordinates were read 100 times per second. Different hair, makeup and tattoos were applied to the model in realtime.
The “digital mirror” demonstration is in principle an Eye Toy setup, where a camera is able to detect movement and track objects, albeit with a much higher resolution.
Sony also screened a video demonstrating that these techniques could be applied to simulate the full range of human movement. The Cell’s remarkable streaming capabilities were also on display, streaming 48 MPEG 2 videos simultaneously. The PS3 will benefit from the high-powered video output ability of the Cell: the processor is able to transmit 3 digital high-definition (HD) channels and 1 analog channel simultaneously.
Download a video clip of a Japanese TV news story about the Cell chip demonstration: Toshiba-Cell-Demo.avi (3.0 MB, 54 seconds. Use “right click, save as…”)
Editor’s note: When the PS2 was introduced, there was a lot of hype surrounding its graphics chip, known as the “Emotion Engine”. In hindsight, it lacked the power to deliver the life-like graphics that were promised. With the Playstation 3 hardware based on the Cell chip, Sony may well deliver something that is deserving of the name “Emotion Engine”.
For the first time, the interactivity that video games provide could become so powerful that games may be able to detect the emotions of the player. It is imaginable that reactions of the player to events in the game could be used to influence what goes on on screen. Emotions such as surprise, shock, frustation or anger appear relatively easy to detect.
No doubt technical feats such as this “digital mirror” require very well-defined light conditions and high resolution cameras, but this demonstration fueled our hope for great improvements in the capability and usefulness of Sony’s next Eye Toy for the Playstation 3.
Seeing how the PS3 appears so adept at using Eye Toy technology, one wonders what the future holds for the next generation of Eye Toy enabled games. Will we finally be able to dispense with our controllers? Imagine shooting games, where you actually have to work out the trigger finger, while pretending to hold a gun in your hand!
Speaking of the controller: When the controller for the Playstation 3 was revealed, many jokes were made about its boomerang shape. There were many jokes along the lines of, “When you throw the controller in anger, it comes right back and hits you in the head! “
With the demonstration of the Cell processor, Sony has gone one better: This time, when you throw the controller, the Cell chip can track the controller in-flight and tell you where it’s landed. Neato!
By Markus Weichselbaum, Editor-in-Chief