Monday, November 27, 2006

SIXAXIS + Eye Toy = successful absolute motion sensing ? Follow-up with pictures :)

SIXAXIS + Eye Toy = successful absolute motion sensing ?

This patents was originally filed in May 2006, but the published date (it has not been granted yet) is November 2006 (it is the 2nd newest one that has appeared in the U.S.P.T.O.'s web-site assigned to Sony Computer [Ent.]):

Here it is

I'll quickly summarize what I understood after a very quick read over the patent (and I mean quick ;)):

1.) It is obviously PLAYSTATION 3 related and that controller IS the SIXAXIS IMHO.

2.) The patent talks about using a camera to capture the shape of the controller (edit: to capture the shape and appearance of some 4 rectangular LED's... uhm... I wonder what kind of rectangular LED's you could be thinking about ;)) and constantly update it and control how the captured image(s) morphs geometrically to help the system understand its movement and its position relative to the camera.

3.) Those rectangular LED's are an interesting choice as they are NOT covered by the user's fingers and should be easily kept visible to camera. This system + the SIXAXIS's motion sensors should make for a pretty kick-ass combination :).

Let's swim through the patent a little, shall we ? (it was not really a question :P)


1. A controller, comprising: a body; one or more buttons disposed on the body; and one or more light-emitting diodes (LEDs) disposed on the body that are arranged in a geometric shape.

2. A controller in accordance with claim 1, wherein the one or more LEDs comprises four LEDs.

3. A controller in accordance with claim 1, wherein the geometric shape comprises a rectangle.

4. A controller in accordance with claim 1, wherein the one or more LEDs are attached to a front portion of the body that faces away from a user when the controller is properly held by the user.

5. A controller in accordance with claim 1, wherein the one or more LEDs are configured to be strobed.

6. A controller in accordance with claim 1, wherein the one or more LEDs are configured to be modulated.

7. A controller in accordance with claim 1, wherein the one or more LEDs are each configured to operate at a different frequency.


[0059] In step 304 the movements and deformities in the projection of the geometric shape are analyzed. Namely, the four dots of the bounding box are tracked and analyzed. Field and frame analysis is performed on the image plane of the camera output to analyze the manipulation of the four reference points to determine position orientation, tilt, yaw, roll, etc. of the controller. In addition, acceleration of the controller can be tracked in any direction. Analysis of the frames of the image can give the acceleration along any axis. Telemetry points of the controller can also be computed. It can also be determined whether or not the controller is in a resting position or resting state, such as for example when the controller is in a neutral or steady state near the user's waist.

[0060] As the controller rolls the image translates in the plane. Changes in the width of the rectangle of the bounding box indicate the controller is rolling. As the yaw of the controller is adjusted, the width of the rectangle changes. Yaw maps to the width of the rectangle. Tilt of the controller influences the height of the rectangle.

[0052] While the illustrated embodiment of the controller utilizes four LEDs, it should be well understood that other embodiments may utilize more than four LEDs or less than four LEDs. For example, three LEDs will work, and two LEDs will also work to provide tracking information. Even one LED can provide position information.

[0052] While the illustrated embodiment of the controller utilizes four LEDs, it should be well understood that other embodiments may utilize more than four LEDs or less than four LEDs. For example, three LEDs will work, and two LEDs will also work to provide tracking information. Even one LED can provide position information.

The SIXAXIS's motion sensors can help the Camera providing additional information on the controller's acceleration, tilt, yaw and pitch informations which are sampled by the controller itself too and not only by the camera.

[0068] The image analyzer monitors the bounding box formed by the reference LEDs as captured in the image plane of the camera. The image analyzer analyzes the position, rotation, horizontal and vertical deformation of the bounding box to determine the physical user manipulation of the controller, its position, roll, tilt and yaw coordinates. At the end of the image analysis the data may be output in the form of an output ID or the like. Such output IDs from the image analysis may include data such as the x, y, z coordinates, acceleration and velocity along any axis, that the controller is in a resting position or state, etc. Thus, at the end of image analysis the image analyzer can indicate where the controller is and whether a command is issued. And the image analyzer may be pinged at any instant of time and it may provide position, orientation, last command, etc.

[0069] By way of example, the image analyzer may provide, but shall not be limited to providing the following outputs:

[0070] CONTROLLER POSITION (X, Y, Z coordinates);

[0071] CONTROLLER ORIENTATION alpha, beta, gamma (radians);







[0078] RESTING POSITION OF STEADY STATE Y/N (at waist as described, but may be defined as any position);





Ok, so you are wondering... "how sure are you that the patent is talking about the SIXAXIS (besides the console used in the example having also a slot-loading drive... curious ;)) ?".

Well, let's read these quoted lines together:

[0113] In addition to conventional features, the joystick controller 430 may include one or more inertial sensors 432, which may provide position and/or orientation information to the processor 401 via an inertial signal. Orientation information may include angular information such as a tilt, roll or yaw of the joystick controller 430. By way of example, the inertial sensors 432 may include any number and/or combination of accelerometers, gyroscopes or tilt sensors. In a preferred embodiment, the inertial sensors 432 include tilt sensors adapted to sense orientation of the joystick controller with respect to tilt and roll axes, a first accelerometer adapted to sense acceleration along a yaw axis and a second accelerometer adapted to sense angular acceleration with respect to the yaw axis. An accelerometer may be implemented, e.g., as a MEMS device including a mass mounted by one or more springs with sensors for sensing displacement of the mass relative to one or more directions. Signals from the sensors that are dependent on the displacement of the mass may be used to determine an acceleration of the joystick controller 430. Such techniques may be implemented by program code instructions 404 which may be stored in the memory 402 and executed by the processor 401.

[0114] By way of example an accelerometer suitable as the inertial sensor 432 may be a simple mass elastically coupled at three or four points to a frame, e.g., by springs. Pitch and roll axes lie in a plane that intersects the frame, which is mounted to the joystick controller 430. As the frame (and the joystick controller 430) rotates about pitch and roll axes the mass will displace under the influence of gravity and the springs will elongate or compress in a way that depends on the angle of pitch and/or roll. The displacement and of the mass can be sensed and converted to a signal that is dependent on the amount of pitch and/or roll. Angular acceleration about the yaw axis or linear acceleration along the yaw axis may also produce characteristic patterns of compression and/or elongation of the springs or motion of the mass that can be sensed and converted to signals that are dependent on the amount of angular or linear acceleration. Such an accelerometer device can measure tilt, roll angular acceleration about the yaw axis and linear acceleration along the yaw axis by tracking movement of the mass or compression and expansion forces of the springs. There are a number of different ways to track the position of the mass and/or or the forces exerted on it, including resistive strain gauge material, photonic sensors, magnetic sensors, hall-effect devices, piezoelectric devices, capacitive sensors, and the like.

[0115] In addition, the joystick controller 430 may include one or more light sources 434, such as light emitting diodes (LEDs). The light sources 434 may be used to distinguish one controller from the other. For example one or more LEDs can accomplish this by flashing or holding an LED pattern code. By way of example, 5 LEDs can be provided on the joystick controller 430 in a linear or two-dimensional pattern. Although a linear array of LEDs is preferred, the LEDs may alternatively, be arranged in a rectangular pattern or an arcuate pattern to facilitate determination of an image plane of the LED array when analyzing an image of the LED pattern obtained by the image capture unit 423. Furthermore, the LED pattern codes may also be used to determine the positioning of the joystick controller 430 during game play. For instance, the LEDs can assist in identifying tilt, yaw and roll of the controllers. This detection pattern can assist in providing a better user/feel in games, such as aircraft flying games, etc. The image capture unit 423 may capture images containing the joystick controller 430 and light sources 434. Analysis of such images can determine the location and/or orientation of the joystick controller. Such analysis may be implemented by program code instructions 404 stored in the memory 402 and executed by the processor 401. To facilitate capture of images of the light sources 434 by the image capture unit 423, the light sources 434 may be placed on two or more different sides of the joystick controller 430, e.g., on the front and on the back (as shown in phantom). Such placement allows the image capture unit 423 to obtain images of the light sources 434 for different orientations of the joystick controller 430 depending on how the joystick controller 430 is held by a user.

[0116] In addition the light sources 434 may provide telemetry signals to the processor 401, e.g., in pulse code, amplitude modulation or frequency modulation format. Such telemetry signals may indicate which joystick buttons are being pressed and/or how hard such buttons are being pressed.

Interesting :).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Nintendo, tu quoque ?!?

From 249.90 Euros to 259.90 Euros.


Another delay for PLAYSTATION 3 in Europe ?!?

It seems, as you can read over at NeoGaf, that the console might be delayed again.

Of course, as Sony's own Jamie MacDonald put it, "European consumers have shown that historically they don't mind [the delays]".

Our answer if another delay is pushed down our throats (remember people, we are NOT stock-holders, we are CUSTOMERS) should simply be:

We are importing!

Would we be doing a baaaaaad thing ?

No, because:

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Well, this was the result of about 88,000 PLAYSTATION 3 consoles at its Japanese launch.

According to a news article, analysts believe Sony will ship about 150,000-200,000 PLAYSTATION 3 consoles for its North American launch.

Pure... madness... BEWARE!

What a clean motherboard: an Xbox 360 follow-up

This, so that we can properly compare the two consoles, is the naked motherboard of the Xbox 360 console (again from PC WATCH IMPRESS):

On the left you can see Xbox 360's CPU called Xenon (or Waternoose) and on its right you can see Xbox 360's GPU called Xenos (or C1) with its attached E-DRAM module (this daughter die is on the same package as Xenos, but on a different die).
Another thing we should notice is how the central piece of the equation in Xbox 360 is not the Xenon CPU, but Xenos. Xenos is both the GPU and the system's North-bridge, it is where the main memory controller is located and if you look around it you can see it being surrounded by the 4x1024 Mbits GDDR3 memory chips with a 128 bits bus clocked at 700 MHz delivering about 22.4 GB/s of transfer speed. The high speed link that connects CPU and GPU manages a peak of almost 22 GB/s and we ought to remember that Xenos can ask Xenon to lock a portion of its L2 cache to read/write from/to it. Looking more on the lower-right side of the motherboard we can see the Xbox 360's South-bridge, its I/O processor which was designed by VIA and you can spot it by that silver filled circle on its surface (trivia: the Video Scaler chip inside the Xbox 360 was designed internally at Microsoft by a group of talented engineers which, one upon a time, got its hands dirty with another famous project.... the M2).

What a clean motherboard :).

Nice and tidy.

I think that clean motherboard designs are something to be really appreciated given how much work goes into them and how easy it is to rush the design late in the manufacturing process to meet a deadline.
The main four chips you see on the first picture on the right (which is a shot of
PLAYSTATION 3's mother-board taken by the chaps at PC WATCH) are from up-right to bottom-left:

1.) It is the I/O Bridge chip or I/O Processor: as you can see it has a quite fat connection with the CELL processor which sits right below. As this next diagram (taken from a Sony Computer Entertainment presentation) shows the I/O Bridge is in charge of the Ethernet link, of the USB 2.0 ports, of the Blu-Ray disc drive as well as the Memory Card slots, management of the Wireless LAN chip (provided by Marvell), HDD controller management, etc... it is basically PLAYSTATION 3's South-bridge chip. The chip's code is CXD2973GB.

2.) The second chip, in order, sitting below the I/O processor is the now very famous CELL Broadband Engine processor, the CPU, the heart of the console: to its right we can see the four 512 Mbits XDR memory modules delivering a whopping 25.6 GB/s of bandwidth and to its left we can see the 35 GB/s connection (a 20 GB/s channel delivering data to RSX from CELL and a 15 GB/s channel delivering data from RSX to CELL) to the system Graphics Processor code-named RSX. You can see how Rambus's patented FlexPhase technology allows the data and multiplexed command+address traces to be laid out in a flexible and simple way (rest of PR speech is here ;)). The CPU code is CXD2964GB.

3.) To the left of the CELL processor we have the graphical powerhouse of PLAYSTATION 3, the nVIDIA co-developed Reality Synthesizer or RSX (an enhanced version of the nVIDIA GeForce 7 architecture shrunk using 90 nm technology and optimized for use with the CELL processor in PLAYSTATION 3). If you wonder "well, where has the Video RAM or VRAM run off to ?" do not worry as it is embedded in the same package as RSX's die as shown by further photos you can find here and here
, where they flip the RSX package and show you its belly :). The RSX code is CXD2971GB.

4.) The last, but not least of the four major chips present in the PLAYSTATION 3's mother-board: it is the integrated EE+GS chip. This Integrated Circuit or IC combines in one single silicon surface (or die) the Emotion Engine (or EE, the CPU of PlayStation 2) and the Graphics Synthesizer (or GS, the GPU of PlayStation 2) using 90 nm technology: the chip has always been known as EE+GS@90 nm. From what I hear, this is not exactly the same EE+GS chips produced initially for the PSX device (only released in Japan) and used also in the slim-line PSTwo consoles, but a newer and modified incarnation. The code of this EE+GS chip is CXD2953AGB.

Not just the EE+GS chip made it in PLAYSTATION 3, look above it and compare those two very little chips with what you see in the following photo (again from PC WATCH IMPRESS, a slim-line PSTwo's motherboard photo):

That's right folks, SCE included 32 MB of Direct Rambus DRAM along with the EE+GS combo chip thus bringing over also the system RAM used by PlayStation 2. PlayStation 2's memory layout was roughly: 32 MB of Direct Rambus DRAM (system RAM), 4 MB of embedded DRAM (VRAM), 2 MB of RAM for the SPU2 sound processor and 2 MB of RAM for the I/O CPU.
Sony Computer Entertainment (or SCE) was not able to complete a PlayStation 2 software emulator solution that satisfied their backward-compatibility needs as there are quite a few challenges emulating the characteristics of PlayStation 2's powerful Graphics processor (the GS). PlayStation/PSOne backward-compatibility quite likely is not the headache-inducing problem for SCE as PlayStation 2/PSTwo backward-compatibility is: in PlayStation 2 the original PlayStation 's GPU was already emulated through the GS (display lists were pre-processed by the EE before they were forwarded to the GS which included some hardware features to ease the emulation process).
It should be noticed that since PSTwo's latest revisions (series
SCPH-7500x IIRC) the former PlayStation/PSOne CPU, which had been used as PlayStation 2's I/O processor (also known as IOP), was substituted by a newer (and PowerPC based according to an interview with an IBM executive a while ago) processor which took the duty of emulating the IOP and the PlayStation 2 Sound Processor (which is called SPU2).
I do not think that it would surprise many people to hear that the problems some PSOne and PSTwo games experience running on these latest model PSTwo's are I/O and Sound ones ;).
Sony has enough knowledge of every little detail concerning PSOne architecture and its quirks as well as all the processing power they need to efficiently emulate PSOne titles purely in software: it is not rocket science any longer even on PC's quite less powerful than PLAYSTATION 3.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Well, some more short-changing for us consumers...

Sad to start this blog with whining, but... sometimes i just get mad.

I get this sequence of news:

Nintendo to Spend $200 Million on Wii Marketing to Battle Sony

Sonic CinePlayer chosen to power DVD-playing version of Nintendo's Wii (late 2007)

Now, we know Wii has a fully functional DVD drive, we have seen how the Wii, even though it abandoned the high-performance CPU+GPU technology race and chose an evolutionary path from GameCube with the innovation relying in its unique control method, has raised the price of admission for Nintendo home consoles again (from $199 of GameCube to $249 of Wii), we suspected that Software Playback for DVD movies was the only missing piece of the equation and there we go...

You COULD watch DVD movies on Wii, even though Nintendo cheapened out from providing optical out for surround sound, but it seems that Nintendo will not let you even pay for an DVD-movie playback enabling add-on (so that you can pay the DVD-forum fees for them) for your Wii.

Nintendo's solution ? Double dipping their customers with a new revision of the Wii to be launched one year from now.

The Wii is not even out yet and they are already preparing to launch the Wii SP ;).

Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo: finding a way to irritate their customers... I hope they can get their feet back on the ground.
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