Forums - Gaming Discussion - In-depth comparison of the big three's motion controllers.

Since there is a lot of misinformation floating around, I decided to make a thread to try and clear some of the confusion. Although I am no longer in the video game industry, I still follow it very closely and work with many technologies which are making their presence in video games. Although there isn't a lot of information on Sony and Microsoft's technologies, there is more than enough to make a fairly accurate analyses. Since the wiimote is nothing new, I am going to spend most of the thread talking about Sony's and Microsoft's solutions. Feel free to ask me any questions you may have. Although I have not worked with Microsoft Natal, I have written software that make use of 3D cameras.


Nintendo's Wii Motion Plus:
We are all familiar with Nintendo's Wii Motion Plus. To put it bluntly, it is a more accurate Wii remote with 1:1 motion capture. There really isn't much to say about this since we are all familiar with it.

Sony's Motion Technology:

What Sony demonstrated at E3 is actually a mix of two different products, an RGB camera and a wand with 1:1 motion capture. Aside from the physical look of the wand and the light on the top, Sony's wand is essentially a Wii controller with Motion Plus. The wand is completed well with the Playstation Eyetoy, a camera with a multi-array microphone

Microsoft's Natal:
Microsoft's Natal, much like the other 2 solutions, is composed of different technologies. It has an RGB camera, a multi-array microphone, a 3D depth sensor, and a specialized processor to help simplify the whole thing. This is the first time that a 3D depth sensor of this level has been featured in an entertainment device like this. It uses technology developed by GestureTek.

Now that you know what each of the solutions are, how do they differ from each other? Ignoring Sony's wand, a lot of people seem to think that Natal and the EyeToy are the same thing. Afterall, they both let you use your body to interact with the game. However, the technologies are very different.

Imagine this:
Sony's EyeToy is looking at a balloon. When the balloon moves back, it gets smaller so the EyeToy can guess that since it is getting smaller, it must be moving farther back. If it gets bigger, it is probably moving closer. However, if the balloon moves closer while being deflated, to the EyeToy, it looks like the balloon is not moving at all. Afterall, despite getting closer, since the balloon is being deflated, the size is not changing. This is how the Eyetoy tracks Z (depth) axis movement, it uses the size of an object to guess how far away it is.

If you try the same trick on Microsoft's Natal, it would know that the balloon is both moving forward and getting smaller.  This is because it has a depth sensor that tracks 3D space.

If you jump around in front of the eyetoy, it will know that you are moving. If you turn off the lights and try it again, the EyeToy is 100% useless because it is just a simple camera. It uses technology that has been around for decades. However, even if the room is completely dark and the camera in Natal is unable to see anything, the 3D camera continues to function.

On the other hand:
If you turn your back to Microsoft's Natal and begin to move your fingers, it won't be able to know what you are doing. However, if you're holding the Wiimote or Sony's wand, it will still know that the wand is moving up and down, even if it can't see you.


Ignoring all context and just comparing the technologies by themselves, the order of superiority is Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo. Why is Nintendo last? Simple, Sony's wand can do everything Nintendo's controller can do but it also has a camera to allow very basic image analyses. However, seeing as how every Wii game supports the wand and Sony/Microsoft are a few years too late, I don't think it will do anything. I'm sure a few games will make good use of it but that will probably be it.

So there you have it! I hope people now understand the differences between the technologies. A wiimote, a wiimote with a camera, and a 3D camera. That is pretty much what we have to look forward to :D

Edit: It appears that Microsoft has a game that already makes use of Natal

"Kipman also showed me a version of Burnout that had been set up to work with Project Natal. Burnout is a serious game, not just a tech demo — it's a polished, fast-paced racing game with high-end graphics, and I happen to have played a lot of it. With Project Natal, instead of using a joystick, you steer by holding your hands up in the air like you're gripping a steering wheel. To hit the gas, you move your foot forward along the floor. To brake, you move it back. To trigger the turbo boost, you do a gear-shifting, fist-pumping movement with your right arm. Awesome.

It takes a few minutes to get the hang of it. You tend to oversteer, since you can't quite believe this thing is going to pick up your movements, so you exaggerate them. But soon you start to trust it, because it does actually work. I couldn't detect any significant latency. And there's definitely an extra edge to playing a game with nothing between you and the screen but your clenched, white-knuckled fists. I'm a hard-core gamer, so I'm not the person Project Natal is targeting. I love my controller as it is. But the appeal of Project Natal is real. You could compare it to the difference between regular movies and 3-D movies: it puts you in the action in a way that nothing else could."



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Very good example of the different techniques used by the EyeToy and Natal.



question is how much will natal cost and how much will sonys new motion controller cost.



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Skeeuk said:
question is how much will natal cost and how much will sonys new motion controller cost.


Sony's controller shouldn't be too expensive and will probably be competitively priced with the Wiimote. Microsoft Natal on the other hand... The technology is not cheap at all, but I doubt Microsoft would be releasing it if it were too expensive. We are in a recession, after all.

 

EDIT: Actually, it seems that the company that makes the sensor says it isn't that expensive compared to traditional RGB cameras.



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Posted a new reply instead of editing to my post by accident. Disregard this.



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I think this thread deserves a bump, it was an interesting read.

Since I'm not familiar with the tech myself, I can't say how accurate or inaccurate this information is, but it's at least interesting.



Very educated read. Thank you.



jetrii said:

Sony's Motion Technology:
What Sony demonstrated at E3 is actually a mix of two different products, an RGB camera and a wand with 1:1 motion capture. Aside from the physical look of the wand and the light on the top, Sony's wand is essentially a Wii controller with Motion Plus. The wand is completed well with the Playstation Eyetoy, a camera with a multi-array microphone

Wiimote is technically a camera, which track a sesnsor bar. Exactly the same technology are Sony's Wand, just vice-versa. Wand emits the light, PSEye track it.



Skeeuk said:
question is how much will natal cost and how much will sonys new motion controller cost.

The eye toy with the wand and Natal will both be pretty expensive if you ask me. It will attract fewer people than it should at first because of the price. I cannot wait to see the games that will be created for it.

@ OP: Thanks for the post, it was very informative.



Thank god someone made this thread! It should be a good place to redirect the fanboys that just want to hear what they want to hear and not analyze the specs of each motion controllers.

Can we really call the Natal a motion controller though? This has been bugging me since yesterday to be honest. :/



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