Move.Me: Sony’s Very Own Motion Capture SDK

move-dot-me-playstation-move-sdk Last month, Microsoft found time to release an SDK for the Xbox 360 Kinect peripheral—after a gigantic amount of hooplah when people discovered how imminently hackable the device is—and it’s been leaving other contenders in the dust ever since. This month, at the Game Developer’s Conference, Sony has revealed that they too want to get into the business of offering academia and homebrew programmers a chance to cut their teeth on Sony’s motion-capture peripheral: the Move.

Yesterday, in a post on Sony’s blog, they revealed some of the details surrounding their new academic SDK and how they expect it might change the future of their own achievements in the gaming industry,

Hi Gamers, John McCutchan, Senior Engineer with SCEA’s Developer Support team, here to tell you about an exciting initiative we’re unveiling for PlayStation Move during GDC this week. Later today, I’ll be giving a presentation on Move.Me, a new software application that provides academics and hobbyists access to PlayStation Move’s technology, enabling them to create entirely new applications using a PC, the Move motion controller, the PlayStation Eye, and the power of the PlayStation 3 system. We know many of you might not be able to make the trek to San Francisco for the show, so we wanted to give you a quick overview of Move.Me here.

When we launched PlayStation Move last September, we knew it would set a new benchmark for precision in motion controlled gaming. Even before PlayStation Move was publicly available to all of you, we were talking about the device’s potential implications for academics and researchers. While visiting conferences like Games for Health and SIGGRAPH last year, these same researchers and academics expressed strong interest in utilizing PlayStation Move’s cutting edge technology for their own purposes. Move.Me is the result of these conversations, and is an opportunity for PlayStation to inspire new, revolutionary applications in other fields beyond gaming.

Move.Me Diagram

The weird thing about this SDK is that it seems that it actively requires the PS3 to do the processing for the Move peripheral. This is not the case with the Microsoft Kinect and in fact has been possibly a giant mover in the innovation direct towards the Kinect—that people could just take the device, plug it into their PC, and go from there.

Perhaps Sony overlooked that, or they’re simply unwilling to unlock the secrets of the drivers and software that underlie the proprietary motion capture system.

That’s a huge disadvantage when it comes to homebrew hacking. Consoles may be computers themselves, dedicated to the purpose of providing games and apps to consumers, but most of them don’t really represent so much dedicated power that they cannot be virtualized on a reasonably powerful personal rig.

Is Sony going to release the virtual machine that does the pattern and motion recognition processing for the PC so that people can skip the Sony PS3 step entirely? Hopefully so, since when academics actually produce something useful for these devices, it’ll be a little bit bizarre if every implementation must also install a PS3 component into their equipment (or connect it to their computer) in order to make use of it.

If they don’t, someone will do what they did with Kinect and backwards engineer the motion capture software black boxed in the PS3 and get it to run on the PC instead.

All that said, it’s good to see another game console move in to push into Microsoft’s current dominant territory. Competition will be good for innovation and force some sort of reaction that will probably generate a lot of invention—as long as Sony doesn’t shoot themselves in the foot by staying too locked down.