SONY DSC

Sony laid its social networking ambitions out on the table when it announced the use of real names on PSN, its online network, for the PlayStation 4. Now, as the company preps that next-gen console for launch this week, we're finally learning more about how those new PSN profiles will work and just what it is the PS4 Eye camera can actually do. And not everything works the way you would think.

Though you'd expect the PS4 Eye to be able to capture your image and connect it to your PSN profile, that's not actually the case. Sony's only allowing integration with Facebook accounts as a means of pulling real-world photos into PSN. And if you don't happen to have a Facebook account, well, you're out of luck. The only other option is to choose from the avatars Sony makes available, much like the current PSN setup for PS3 and PS Vita.

For the sake of privacy, Sony's made it so public profiles will revert to a user's PSN ID. That means real names won't just show up in your Friends list by default. To enable them, you'll have to enter settings and specifically request access from each friend. That will also impact how you search for friends, since you'll need their PSN ID to at least initially make contact.

Before today's PlayStation 4 preview event, Sony hadn't gone into great deal about the PS4 Eye camera's extended functions. Sure, we'd heard about the vague possibilities of voice commands and facial recognition, but the particulars were shrouded in mystery. Well, we now know that you can launch games and even shut down the system with speech alone, but you can also set the system to log into your account via face unlock alone.

We watched a Sony rep demo the initial setup for this and it appeared relatively simple. Users will need to go through a five-stage process to give the system adequate facial data, which involves moving your head up and down, and tilting it at various angles. Once that image is set and attached to your account, the PS4 Eye will log on to your profile using one of two triggers: by head motion or by bringing the DualShock 4's light bar into view. We'll wait until our final review of the system to issue a verdict on just how flawlessly this facial recognition works outside of a controlled demo environment. But based on our first impression, it appears users will have a viable, hands-free alternative to getting their PS4's up and running.

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