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PlayStation Move creator wants to open the device to PC users


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At the D.I.C.E. Summit in Las Vegas this week, we sat down with Sony's Dr. Richard Marks, the man behind the PlayStation Move, to talk motion controls.

While Microsoft's Kinect has been opened a bit, allowing hobbyist programmers to play with the hardware and write some of their own software, the Move is steadfastly locked to the PlayStation 3. But according to Dr. Marks, that may not be the case forever. In fact, he wants to give tinkerers access to all the data the Move creates, not just the little bit Kinect hackers have squeezed out of Microsoft's hardware.

Hints of PC drivers

This speculation began when the gaming press noticed a session at the upcoming Game Developers Conference that seemed to suggest Sony would be releasing PC drivers for the Move.

"This talk will bring developers up to speed on developing for the PlayStation Move controller. We will cover developing for the new PlayStation Move Sharp Shooter accessory," the schedule explains. "We will discuss the new Move Server project that will make it possible for academics and hobbyists to develop software using the PlayStation Move controller on their own PCs."

We asked Dr. Marks point blank: is this happening?

"For a long time I've mentioned in my talks that we'd like to let more people innovate with Move. It's a nice tool. It is made for the PS3, so it's difficult in that sense for us to let it happen," he told Ars. "I would really like to see it happen, so all the really creative minds in the labs and the hobbyists can actually play around with it. But as of now, we haven't announced anything official. But it is something I really want to see happen as soon as possible."

Openness can bring publicity. Videos of hobbyists playing with their Kinects and working on their own projects have been all over the gaming blogs, making Microsoft's motion controller seem like a hot item, even though Dr. Marks points out that the work done on the Kinect has so far been very limited.

"With the Kinect in particular they pretty much just grabbed the raw data from the camera," he said. The skeleton tracking and the higher-level functions that Microsoft baked into the Kinect are still unavailable for most hobbyist developers.

"Actually the systems are kind of equivalent right now," Marks pointed out, since the PlayStation Eye has likewise been hacked so that enthusiasts can look at the raw data being picked up by the accessory.

The trick is to go deeper. "We would like to go beyond that so you can have the full Move experience available for people so they can get as good data as the game can have," he said. Giving the end user complete access to the stream of data coming from the Move's gyros and accelerometers, and access to the programs the Eye uses to turn that data into 3D controls, would give PC tinkerers a powerful new toy.

Dr. Marks reiterated that this is something he'd like to see happen, and I got the sense that Sony may not share his level of enthusiasm for opening up the Move so thoroughly to hobbyist developers.

The Move will remain a PS3 product

Even though he's clearly enthusiastic about the idea of researchers and hobbyists using the Move, it will remain a gaming product, and will be marketed as such.

"I think the Move is a good PlayStation 3 product. It makes sense for that console; it doesn't make sense as a product for PC," he told me. He pointed out that hobbyists and researchers would have a great time with a version of the Move that worked with their PCs, but that the hardware has limitations as an interface for computers.

"It's just not the right kind of form factor to sit in front of the PC with this sized device," he said. Something smaller may work better.

The Move won't replace a computer mouse any time soon, but with larger screens, support for PCs, and talented independent developers, who knows what can be done with the hardware? Dr. Marks is keen to find out, and we're looking forward to see what exactly will be announced at GDC later this year.

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