Camera Preview: Moon your friends!
Say goodbye to the days of playing games in that faded paint-splattered T-shirt because you'll have to start dressing up when Microsoft releases the long awaited Xbox Live Vision camera next month. Hey, you want to look good for the camera, don't you? Of course, many gamers will go the opposite way and dress down ? way
down ? but luckily, Microsoft has included measures to protect your eyesight from people who feel the need to expose their nether regions (but unfortunately, they haven't found a way to remove clothing from those high on the hotness scale. Oh well, maybe in the next dashboard update?).
The Vision camera is like any other PC webcam, capable of streaming live video and taking still photos, all in a small unobtrusive package. You can even use it on your PC. The only difference is that the camera is specifically designed for the console (which is why a standard PC webcam won't work) and is easily identifiable as a 360 accessory thanks to the cool green ring of light at the base of the lens. It lacks a microphone but that's what your headset is for.
Astute gamers may have noticed that much of the Vision camera's functions are already integrated into the Xbox Live dashboard, which makes it very easy to use ? you simply plug it into the USB port and it works.
The camera lets you use the ?Add Picture? option when you compose a message to friends; simply take a picture and insert it into your message. Easy. The only downside is that message pics can only be viewed from your console and not through your xbox.com account.
But what about icky pics of someone's naughty bits? Pics can be sent to anyone but if the recipient is not on the sender's Friends List, they will be prompted to accept or decline the picture; this should help filter out random ?flashings? by strangers. Similarly, you can create your own personal gamer picture that can only be viewed by friends, a nice privacy feature that prevents strangers from seeing your smiling mug while blocking pics of some stranger's lumpy butt.
Having said all that, discretion and good judgment should be used by everyone at all times ? especially those with young children ? but these features show that Microsoft has taken careful consideration to reduce potential abuse of the camera. Unfortunately for me, I have several friends who are no doubt giddy about abusing the hell of it and scarring me for life. But hey, what are friends for?
You can customize the image by zooming in on any portion of the screen, pausing the video stream or use a variety of cool filter effects like sepia, negative, black and white, line sketch, night vision, artsy, weird distortion and even trippy psychedelic effects using the music visualizer.
One really interesting feature is that the video image continues to play as a background theme behind the Xbox Live dashboard tabs. You can set visual effects here as well and even interact with them; for example, in the Water mode, it will appear as if you are underwater and rapid movements will create little ?waves? in the image. Cool!
The camera is already supported in games like Uno and Strip ? er, I mean Texas Hold ?Em Poker, which will allow you to replace your standard gamer pic with streaming video. The Hardwood games and Bankshot Billiards 2 will be updated to add camera support. The camera will also allow you to insert your own face into the upcoming World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas. By taking a small series of facial and profile pics, the DigiMask face-mapping technology in these games will render the shots into a surprisingly accurate recreation of your handsome visage for insertion into your game character. And you thought your friends liked shooting you in the face before!
Also included in the package will be TotemBall, a music game developed by UK-based Strange Flavour and Freeverse, who also created ToySight for the Apple iSight. The premise is simple; you drive around an island building up your totem by collecting smaller totems while avoiding enemies that try to impede your progress. Since each totem makes a sound, the music becomes more complex the more you collect. The game uses the same GestureTek on-camera gesture technology used in the Sony EyeToy to translate your hand movements into steering commands.
Last, and most certainly not least, the Vision will truly be an interactive camera in more ways than one. In what is perhaps the most interesting and unusual feature, if you are chatting with another camera user, you can make their controller vibrate by pressing your analog triggers. Oh my. I will leave it to your imagination what potential uses this could have.