PlayStation 4 Camera Review
As an early adopter of the very kinect-like camera for the PS4, I’ve had some time to play with its features as well as The PlayRoom, which is essentially a tech demo for the camera’s feature set. Please note that this review is based on current features and views could change dependent on the future success and implementation of promised features.
The camera itself is very nice looking and the sleek black look seems that it would fit in without distracting too much from the majority of HDTV aesthetics. It fits in great with my personal set up, but obviously aesthetics are a personal preference. It comes with a base that can be configured to mount on top of nearly any HDTV. While the cable length isn’t a problem for me, the attached six foot cord may be an issue for anyone with a set up that puts the PS4 at any kind of distance from the TV. Currently their are no options for an extension due to the proprietary connection that Sony has created specifically for the camera, so keep that in mind before making your purchase.
The great quality of the PlayStation Camera’s four microphones and dual cameras make this an excellent choice for those who want to use it to interact with their audience while streaming games or for voice chat without the need for a headset, and as there are currently no other options to add video of yourself to streams, this looks like it will be an obvious purchase to anyone interested in that feature.
Now that the PlayStation Camera is all set up, what can I do with it? At the outset, honestly, not much. Setting up my initial account on my PS4 prompted me to input facial recognition data for logging in, which consisted of slightly tilting and turning my head in various directions so that the camera could get a good look. Assuming this is for better facial recognition and not just because of my stunning facial features, the PlayStation Camera does a great job at recognizing your face and logging in aside from one caveat. Lighting conditions appear to play a role in how well it will recognize who’s trying to log in. If I have the overhead lights on, it will log me in almost instantly every time, but if I am using lamps, daylight, or light sources aside from those used to get the facial recognition data, I am hard pressed to be able to successfully log in this way.
All of that aside, facial recognition cannot be used as a security method to keep others out of your profile (you must use a password for that), so simply pressing X to select your profile seems much simpler. When my wife and I are logging in at the same time, it will pair our faces with our controllers and log us in simultaneously, but most individual users will find this feature nearly useless except as a technical show off.
The PlayStation Camera’s four microphones allow for voice commands to be used to control the system (in addition to voice chat without using the included headset). Currently commands only work within the UI, with limited use in games but more on games in a moment. The PlayStation Camera is not listening in standby mode, which means no walking in to the room and starting up your console with your voice before ever picking up your controller. When the PlayStation 4 is on though, saying “PlayStation” will begin the voice command function. Game titles are recognized inputs and saying one will highlight that title on your UI. I tested this out with all games that I own and had no issues with it understanding me, even at moderately low volumes. From the game’s icon, you can now say “Start” and the application will start.
In the UI you can use voice commands to power off or put the system on standby, as well as logging in to alternate profiles on the system. From within games you can say ‘Take Screenshot” to do the obvious and “Home Screen” to… you guessed it, go to the home screen. Trying to view your messages, friends list, trophies, or anything along the upper section of the UI isn’t currently supported, which is what I feel voice commands would be most useful to instantly travel to. Apps also aren’t supported so you’ll still need to fumble for the controller if you want to pause your Netflix. The responsiveness of the voice commands and fidelity of the microphones are quite impressive, but as with facial recognition this lands in the pile of mostly useless, technical showoff features.
The PlayRoom, included with every PlayStation 4 isn’t as much a game as it is a tech demo to show you what the DualShock 4 and PlayStation Camera are truly capable of. Three “games” are available to start with: A robot cyber pet named Asobi, a bunch of AR robots that live in your DualShock 4, and an AR version of Pong. You pick from one of these using the Minority Report-esque interface that appears to be coming out of your controller, demonstrating an extremely impressive AR functionality just within the menu.
Asobi and the AR bots further demonstrate the impressive facial tracking and depth sensing capabilities (Asobi will actually track and appear to fly behind your head) of the camera and showcase the rumble, sixaxis and lightbar functionality of the DualShock 4. The two player AR Pong allows you to manipulate the playing field with the DualShcok 4, moving it and twisting it to try to gain the advantage or throw your opponent off guard. While a technical marvel, PlayRoom alone isn’t much of a reason to pick up the camera as the limited demonstration gets quite dull in about 20 minutes.
Double Fine have announced that they are working on free DLC for The PlayRoom, so it could become a bit more beefed up in the future, but for the time being this is yet another technically amazing yet inherently worthless use of the PlayStation Camera.
Should you rush out and buy the PlayStation Camera? That depends. Is it necessary? Absolutely not. My wife makes fun of me as I lazily use the voice functions to navigate the UI. I waste precious time to see if it will recognize my face after one of my ceiling lights burnt out on Saturday night. There is nothing that the PlayStation Camera currently does to actually improve your PlayStation 4 experience. Is the potential there? Definitely. This is an incredibly well engineered bit of technology that could have many very useful and awesome applications both in games and out. Give me voice control over Netflix. Allow me to use facial recognition to secure my profile. Give us more games that utilize the camera in any way at all. Develop more AR capable games specifically for the camera. Many of these things are said to be coming in the future but until they are here we are left with a very bare bones list of compatible features.
I don’t regret my own purchase of the PlayStation Camera if for nothing more than to show my support for the device and to hope that there is further development in utilizing its feature set. The PS4 doesn’t have the benefit of a camera being included with every system, so if you are on the fence, I would recommend taking the gamble and buying it to show Sony and developers that there is support for this device out in the world. Impressive features such as eye tracking are being worked on (some in partnership with NASA) and could drastically alter this from being a simple, yet impressive technical demo device to being a real cutting edge tool in technological entertainment advancement.