NEW software for Sony’s PlayStation 2 gaming console is set to bring internet protocol (IP)-based video conferencing and telephony to television sets at home – without need of a PC.
While many consumers are already accustomed to chatting and sharing images through web cameras on their PCs, Sony’s new EyeToy Chat makes these functions available on television sets through a PlayStation 2 console connected to a PlayStation EyeToy camera.
EyeToy is a motion sensitive USB camera introduced as a PlayStation accessory last year. It features a built-in microphone and operates like a web-camera with EyeToy Chat, which is set for local release next month.
The software requires a broadband internet connection and allows users to communicate with other EyeToy Chat users using text, voice or video in a similar way as instant messaging applications, such as MSN Messenger, on a PC.
Parental control and security features are built into the system to protect child users, with the option to disable the camera when chatting to strangers.
Although the product is mainly aimed at younger users, Sony believes its VoIP capability will drive PlayStation into new markets as a less expensive alternative to the telephone or PC for those wanting to communicate with friends and relatives abroad.
The product puts PlayStation 2 a step ahead of Microsoft’s Xbox, as although Microsoft’s Xbox Live software does support voice-based chatting through headsets, trials are still under way in Japan on video chat features.
Microsoft launched Xbox Live last year and reports it has over a million accounts globally, but won’t release local figures until towards the end of the year.
However, both Sony and Microsoft agree that the limited coverage of broadband internet in New Zealand will restrict the uptake of these services here.