E3 2012: Why Sony Online Entertainment’s SOEmote Could Be The Future Of Gaming

Interactive entertainment is taking another leap at E3 2012 in Los Angeles. Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) has partnered with Image Metrics to literally put players inside the game world. The new technology will be demonstrated to the 45,000 attendees at the Los Angeles Convention Center June 5-8. But you can see this cool tech in action in the video below.

SOEmote uses the Webcams and microphones that all laptops and the majority of PC gamers already have and partners that with the same technology Image Metrics has used in Hollywood. The end result is the ability to capture the facial expressions and voice of players and transforming that into the real-time actions of the player’s avatar. Taking things further, gamers who play as a character of the opposite sex will hear their real voice transformed in-game to their character correctly. The technology will debut in EverQuest II, but SOE plans on expanding this to other games.

“It’s not the really major things that will make this feature great, it’s the tiny things,” said Dave Georgeson, director of development of SOE’s EverQuest franchise. “The first time that you realize that you actually just saw that troll character roll his eyes at you after you uttered a terrible pun; or the fact that another player is very clearly looking at you while talking to you. Or that someone’s jaw drops when they see something cool…and you can tell.”

Another feature will allow guild leaders to use a broadcast feature to essentially real-time televise what they say out to their guild. Guild leaders can pop open a window on the screens of all their guild members and use SOEmote to actually talk to those players with facial animations and voice font.

“SOEmote brings a completely new, expressive and emotional way to communicate within computer games,” said Georgeson. “All communication is a combination of actual language, the inflections of your voice and your body and face language. Arguably, the most powerful communicator of these three is body language, which until now, we were completely unable to do outside of canned emotes. Now, players can freely emote to one another with no extra effort. It’s fantastic. It’s also the tip of the iceberg in regards to things still to come.”

With Sony’s PlayStation Eye and PlayStation Move, the future of this technology could expand beyond the PC.

“That’s always possible, but we are focused on making it work in our existing games first, and then explore beyond that,” said Georgeson. “The DC Universe Online guys might have a lot to say about console peripherals being usable, but EverQuest and EverQuest II are PC-only products, so my initial thoughts about peripherals were things like ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if you could connect to guild chat via your mobile phone, and do it in character via SOEmote?’ Stuff like that would be rockin’. We’ll see.”

Even combining just voice and expressions in the massively multiplayer online (MMO) gameplay experience is a powerfully immersive experience and an unprecedented new way to communicate in virtual worlds with others.

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