The next version of Sony's Eyetoy Play, due later this year can be used as a security camera as well as for dancing, karaoke and gameplaying further strengthening the Playstation as a hub for home services and entertainment.
In addition to all the existing EyeToy Play functionality of putting players "within" the game, the new version enables budding detectives to set up their EyeToy Play 2 to become a SpyToy, secretly capture photos or record video of intruders, or they can record their own stealth message that will pop up on the television screen should anyone cross the threshold.
By capturing the movements of a player and combining the live-action with video game graphics, the EyeToy 2's main purpose is to creae a virtual reality environment on a TV screen into which a player can enter. This gives new meaning into "putting the gamer into the game".
Made especially for Playstation 2, the EyeToy: Play 2 is a software/digital camera bundle, and the camera plugs into one of the front USB ports of a PS2 and comes packaged with a variety of party games.
Games generally have the player's image at the centre of the screen and are controlled by the player's movement in front of the camera. With the recent availability in miniaturised, affordable optical technologies such as webcams and mobile phone cameras, the launch of the first EyeToy Play was probably the most innovative development in computer game interaction and control since the advent of the joystick.
Since the 1980s, video game designers have been experimenting with live-action video games but few have integrated the players into the games successfully and convincingly.
The real winning point is its unique approach to video game design that is so instinctive that anyone will be able to play it immediately. It also opens up a world of virtual possibilities and gaming concepts that haven't even been dreamed up.
Twelve new games for the EyeToy Play 2 allow players to partake in a range of playing environments. Whether performing super high-kicks in "Kung2", trying their hand at home improvement skills in "DIY", or making burgers and fries in "MrChef", players become the centre of the game itself, and are as much fun to watch in person as they are on the screen.
Additional improvements to the first EyeToy include karaoke singing and Sonic-Cam audio recognition that allows the user to shout commands at the screen. Complaints are often targeted at computer games for hindering the development of social skills and not encouraging physical exercise.
However a positive aspect of the EyeToy is that it allows for interactive games that are actually physically demanding and best enjoyed in groups. Parents who are critical of the lack of exercise their children get due to excessive computer gaming have responded well to the EyeToy and its physical interactivity.
Players can intuitively play the games without the need for lengthy instructions - making complicated multi-button game controllers unnecessary. However this simplicity of the interaction could also be its drawback, as the nature of the games and its ability to captivate and engross gamers is relatively weak. Having said that, most people who have played with the EyeToy Play have remarked that it is best played in groups and with friends.
As the EyeToy and the first two waves of games have only just been released, the games themselves are still only just making use of the new technology and tend to be little more than variations on the same theme. However the potential for further waves of games and products is exciting.