A recently published patent application indicates that Sony may be working on a Kinect-like 3D depth-sensing device for PlayStation. If Sony follows through with development of such a device, it will no doubt be looking to make up some ground lost to Microsoft, whose release of the Kinect in November 2010, overshadowed the release of Sony's PlayStation Move just a month earlier.
Like the Kinect, Sony's patent application for a "User driven three-dimensional gaming environment," involves the use of a 3D depth sensing camera to allow users to interact with virtual objects on a screen in a 3D space. The patent application also mentions visually altering the onscreen appearance of real world physical objects - mapping of virtual clothing to the user, for example.
With the current PlayStation Eye sporting only a standard video camera, Sony will have to produce a new peripheral capable of obtaining distance or depth information. The application lists infrared or stereo cameras as possible technologies to accomplish this.
It's interesting to look at the release of the various motion gaming peripherals by the big three console makers in recent years. Nintendo really got the ball rolling in November 2006 with the release of the Wii, while Sony was next to the party with the release of its PlayStation Eye camera almost a year later.
This is where Sony appears to have missed the boat a bit. While it chose to take on Nintendo's Wii by combining the PlayStation Eye with its Move controller to enable 1:1 tracking, Microsoft went a step further and ditched the controller altogether. This has proven to be a masterstroke with the Kinect claiming the Guinness World Record for being the fastest selling consumer electronics device. And it is this very success that may hamper any attempts by Sony to grab a sizable slice of the controller-free gaming pie.
Whether Sony will follow through with the production of a Kinect-style device for the current generation PS3, for the forthcoming PS4, or is simply hedging its bets and has no intention of releasing such a device, only time will tell. But it has already given Microsoft a big head start and the Kinect only continues to go from strength to strength with a Kinect for Windows on the way in response to the unexpected uses that have been found for the peripheral - which even extends to a Kinect-powered theme park.
The patent application, which was filed on October 26, 2011, can be viewed on the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) website.