The EyeToy is where Sony’s journey to PlayStation VR begins. A webcam coupled with computer-vision and gesture recognition software, it was a “controller-free” controller designed to translate movement, colour, and sound into in-game action. Punch the zombies! Kick the soccer balls! Humiliate your family! You get the idea.
Bundled with a collection of multiplayer mini-games designed to show off its capabilities, EyeToy was an immediate and enduring success, selling over 10 million units in its lifetime and spawning two progeny: PlayStation Eye for PS3 and Camera for PS4 (see p.64 for more on those).
Sony succeeded where Nintendo and Sega had failed. Why? Price was an obvious factor: at just $70 for the Play bundle, EyeToy was affordable enough to pique the interest of the general public. Also, unlike the Power Glove or the Activator, the EyeToy worked. It wasn’t perfect: the 640x480 resolution meant that it sometimes had trouble distinguishing anything but sweeping gestures, but it worked and the games were fun.
Sort of. For a little while.
Sony also had the foresight to dedicate a firstparty studio – SCE London – to developing games for the device, ensuring a constant stream of new content for it.
In 2008, SCE London and Nike partnered up to release EyeToy Kinetic, a fitness training program featuring virtual trainers who’d shout vapid encouragement while you debased yourself in front of the camera’s pitiless glare. This was a full three years before Nintendo released Wii Fit, which was much the same idea but with a bespoke balance board instead of a camera.
Unsurprisingly, and unfortunately for Sony, the product that doesn’t require the user to look at themselves straining to do basic exercises ending up being way more popular.
A WEBCAM CAPABLE OF COMPUTER VISION AND GESTURE RECOGNITION, EYETOY IS WHERE SONY’S PLAYSTATION VR JOURNEY BEGINS