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Sony’s Secret Augmented Reality Game

October 1, 2009 Written by Sebastian Moss

Secret Game

Having more first party developers than Microsoft and Nintendo combined ensures that Sony always has numerous games coming in the pipeline, some announced, but more interestingly, some unannounced. A new job listing for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe’s jobs in the UK, hints at what Sony is planning in future games, and giving us a clue at what lies ahead for PlayStation platforms.

The job listing asks for a “Commuter Vision Researcher” for “SLAM”

Continuing how:

“They need a computer vision researcher to investigate techniques and collaborate with other engineers to create a real-time SLAM system for the PlayStation platform. You will be working alongside Computer Vision experts as well as some of the most creative people in the computer games industry to develop cutting edge game experiences for the mass market.

The successful candidate will need to have a significant amount of experience developing SLAM systems already and is expected to have a PhD in this area (or equivalent experience). They will need to fully understand the mathematics behind such systems and have the software engineering skills to be able to implement them in a structured and modular way.

Augmented reality

They will need to be creative and analytical and also have the communication skills to be able to work with games designers, game programmers and other engineers to gather requirements, propose solutions and adapt the algorithms to the specific needs of the games.

If you don’t know what SLAM is, you are not qualified.”

Simultaneous Localization and Mapping or SLAM is a technique used by robots and autonomous vehicles to build up a map within an unknown environment while at the same time keeping track of their current location.

But how could SLAM be used in games? PlayStation LifeStyle contacted Dr. Andrew Davison, Reader in Robot Vision, Department of Computing, Imperial College London, an expert in the field of Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping, who developed one of the very first real-time SLAM systems for robot navigation, and the first using vision as its primary sensor. He commented:

“Yes, SLAM could certainly be a useful technology for game interfaces. Essentially, it can allow a moving camera to be used as a general 3D motion sensor, while at the same time building a 3D model of the surroundings. This could permit augmented reality type of games where virtual objects and characters could interact with the real scenes that the players are in.”

The ability to create virtual characters that could interact with reality creates a level of interactivity that would be on a scale far greater than EyePet or the PSP’s Invizimals, with SLAM helping to make an augmented reality game that truly blends what actually exists with an entirely fictional world.

Sony’s desire to create not only one augmented reality game, but the tools and platform to make “the games”, shows their new push to capture the gaming market that doesnt just use buttons. Whether the SLAM system is for the PlayStation 3 or PlayStation Portable, or even both, is unknown, but for a complex SLAM interface a powerful computing processor is needed, hinting at the PS3, while SLAM’s ability to analyse different locations hints at the PSP.

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