Sony and Microsoft Showcasing PS4’s Morpheus and Xbox One’s Kinect Tomorrow at Develop; Face-off on Audio

on July 9, 2014 5:48 PM

Tomorrow marks the second day of the Develop conference in Brighton, UK; and both Sony and Microsoft will be showcasing some of their best technologies.

The House of PlayStation will bring a lot of attention on Ps4’s Project Morpheus, with two panels dedicated to the upcoming virtual reality headset:

Sony Computer Entertainment Immersive Technology Group Technical Director Ian Bickerstaff and Senior Engineer Patrick Connor will hold a panel titled “Developing for Project Morpheus” at 4 PM local time:

The aim of Project Morpheus is to create a system that convinces the player that they are in a virtual world. This presentation describes techniques used to achieve this illusion.

But that’s not all, as Sony London Studio Environment Art Supervisor Jason Hickey (who previously worked as Lead Artist on Ryse: Son of Rome) will give more details with his own conferenceEnvironment Art Direction Theory and its Application to Virtual Reality” at 12:15 PM.

This talk is intended to illustrate the principals of Art Direction in respect to Environment Art creation and explore which aspects become increasingly important when creating a virtual reality game experience. Although the industry is still learning when it comes to what makes a successful high quality VR experience we have already identified that it’s the old principals that remain important when it comes to the creation of environments. Using examples and a case study of making The Deep for Project Morpheus, Jason will aim to highlight what is important when considering environment creation for games and what we have learnt with the application to virtual reality.

On the other hand, Microsoft will have Rare out in full force to talk about Kinect and Kinect Sports Rivals, with a whopping four panels.

New Technology Lead Engineer Nick Burton and Lead Programmer Andy Burton will start the dances with “TEARDOWN: Xbox One Kinect Sports Rivals: Champion Characterisation Technology” at 12:15.

The simplicity of the automatic character creation system to create a user’s “Champion” in Kinect Sports Rivals hides a wealth of cutting-edge machine vision technology unlike anything previously seen in a consumer product. Using a ground-breaking mix of trained and hand-coded machine vision systems incubated by multiple Microsoft teams, including in-house at Rare, in Kinect Sports Rivals, Rare is digitising physical user characteristics such as body shape, face shape and hair style as inputs into a fully-automatic character generator which underpins the entire Kinect Sports Rivals user experience. In this presentation, Andy Bastable and Nick Burton present a behind-the-scenes look at the machine vision technology, data capture, regression testing and productization processes that were involved in taking the process out of the lab and into a compelling and entertaining user experience for gamers of all ages around the world.

Executive Producer Danny Isaac and Creative Director Simon Woodroffe will follow up at 2 PM with “TEARDOWN: New Technology, New Platform: Re-Engineering Kinect Sports for Xbox One.

Rare has a long and successful history launching new experiences based on new technology and this has never been truer than with their latest project, Kinect Sports Rivals. Taking what they learnt from Kinect Sports 1 & 2, Rare built on this to take motion gaming to the next level. But how? Here, Rare look back at the journey they embarked on over two years ago and share insights into the design and incubation processes which informed the development of Kinect Sports Rivals. How might all products benefit from this approach to development and innovation? These and other questions will be answered in this engaging presentation.

Senior Producer Joe Neate will join Andy Burton for “TEARDOWN: Hitting a Moving Target – The Production Process for Kinect Sports Rivals.

Production is a complex process for even the most well-known projects, but add both a new platform and the aspiration to re-invent existing IP into the mix and the challenge becomes even more complex. How do you properly schedule a project like this? How do you ensure the title and platform schedules line up? How do you take tech out of the research lab and productise it on a platform that is still developing? How can machine learning and computer vision be put at the centre of a project and where might this lead? More importantly, how do you ensure all of this work results in an experience users will actually want to play? Here Rare look back at the development of Kinect Sports Rivals and discuss how they put user-research and data-gathering at the heart of that process and how this drove a virtuous cycle of ‘implement, test, gather results and repeat’ throughout the project.

Finally, Lead Character Artist Iain McFadzen will be on stage solo with “TEARDOWN: Re-imagining Player Characters in Kinect Sports Rivals.”

Kinect Sports and Kinect Sports Season Two took gaming with Xbox LIVE Avatars to a higher fidelity than any previous Kinect-enabled title for Xbox 360. With the recent launch of Kinect Sports Rivals for Xbox One, however, building on this Avatar fidelity this was not enough, so Rare went back to the drawing board in order to completely re-engineer their central game characters for their debut Xbox One release. Taking a new, high-fidelity approach to automatic character creation, Rare has explored what it takes to create a compelling and highly distinctive character art style while balancing the needs of machine vision systems. Here Rare lift the lid on the creation of Kinect Sports Rivals’ new character art style, look at how it integrates into the in-game world and how this meshes with the advanced digitisation technology that truly imbues the player’s digital character with the essence of their physical likeness.

Interestingly, Sony and Microsoft will also face-off on the audio department.

Microsoft’s Advanced Technology Group Senior Development Lead Scott Selfon will start with the seminarThe Future is Now – But Now What?” at 11:15 AM.

“Next gen” has arrived, with ever increasing technical capabilities in both hardware and software processing. But are these new consoles really just offering the same thing, only more of it? What are the audio frontiers and barriers when so many of the restrictions of the past have been eliminated? And with maturing and increasingly sophisticated audio engine solutions, is game sound programming really now a “solved” problem? Scott reflects on the current state-of-the-art for areas ranging from spatial simulation and acoustic modeling to evolving and dynamic mixing, audio as a feedback mechanism, and highly personalized audio experiences. He’ll use examples from both past and present to highlight the technical achievements that implementers are striving for in making audio not only compelling and realistic, but an equal-footing contributor to immersive, engaging, and rewarding gameplay experiences.

At the end of the afternoon, at 5 PM, Sony Worldwide Studios’ Creative Services Group Audio Director Garry Taylor will host the Audio Keynote.

Garry Taylor has a unique vantage point over today’s game audio landscape. Heading up audio for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, he has oversight of content provision and strategy for multiple studios and Playstation titles across PS4, PS3 and PS Vita, as part of Sony’s Worldwide Studios Group and Audio Standards Working Group.

In a wide-ranging keynote address, he will explore his experience of the past, present and future of sound, music and dialogue for videogames, celebrating and in some cases questioning what has gone before, whilst examining the key ingredients that will take the medium forward. How have audio roles, best practice and game audio tech developed, as game development itself has evolved and changed? How has people’s consumption of audio changed? What do mobile platforms and the rise of headphone listening mean for game audio? What about 3D audio over headphones and what of VR? What does the advent of Dolby Atmos mean for game development, if anything? What’s next for toolsets?

Referring to processes, team integration, tools, hierarchy, equipment, training, communication and game design involvement, he will outline the factors he believes necessary for the future success of game audio.

Looks like it’s going to be a hot day at Develop Conference, especially for those who are interested in the most advanced technologies that color the present and future of PS4 and Xbox One.

 /  Executive News Editor
Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.