TGS 06: Sony demos PS3 interface

Worldwide Studios boss Phil Harrison shows off the next-gen console's media functions, including photos, video, chat, and Web browsing, at Sony's HQ.

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TOKYO--Following Ken Kutaragi's standing-room-only keynote address Friday morning, Sony held a smaller, invitation-only event at its headquarters in Aoyama. The gathering was designed to allow select media additional time with the PlayStation 3 and to show off some surprises the console maker had in store.

Sony Worldwide Studios head Phil Harrison opened the event and encouraged those in attendance to play the games that were peppered throughout the room--previews of which can be found on GameSpot's TGS 2006 After a quick summary of the announcements that came out of Ken Kutaragi's keynote address earlier in the day, Harrison offered up some surprises of his own.

The first surprise was a sneak peek at the PlayStation 3 user interface, which shouldn't be too surprising to those who saw glimpses of it at E3. Before jumping into the demo, Harrison asked that the interface not be photographed or filmed, as it was still a work in progress. Following his request he fired up the monitor at a kiosk attached to a nearby PS3.

The PS3 interface is based on the cross media bar that should be familiar to PlayStation Portable owners and expands on the features offered by its portable cousin. The screen featured a blue color scheme and an artsy swath of white that pulsed in the background. The first section on the bar was the user-profiles area where Harrison noted that those using the system would create and store their unique profiles.

The next section was a system settings tab that offered many options for customizing the PlayStation 3's various functions, such as audio and video. Harrison called out the network update subsection in system settings, noting that, much like the way the PSP's firmware is upgraded with new functionality, the PS3 interface will be tweaked and enhanced postrelease.

The next section on the media bar was the photo option, which will feature enhanced functionality thanks to the PS3's graphics processor and the cell. Harrison started out with a look at several pictures--most of which were of cats--shown in 1080p similar to how one views images on a PSP.

However, the PS3 will offer several different ways to check out photos. Harrison selected a slideshow option that arranged his photos as if they were set down on a flat white surface. As he cycled through them, dates were displayed in a handwritten font. Harrison stated that this was an example of one of many slideshow functions that will let people display their photographs in unique ways. The ornate interactivity comes courtesy of the PS3's RSX processor, which allows photos to be moved around like 3D objects.

The next tab was the music section, which featured a 3D visualizer that used the RSX to create images in time with the music being played. Next to it was a video tab, which is where users will queue up their Blu-ray discs and stored video content for viewing.

The game section is, like its PSP counterpart, the centerpiece for game content on the system. That is where gamers will be able to boot up games and manage their saves for PS3, PlayStation 2, and original PlayStation games. It will also be where they can access game content downloaded from the PlayStation Network Platform.

The next section on the bar shown by Harrison was a new "friends" tab, where players will be able to see if friends are online. Messages can be sent via a predictive-text onscreen keyboard or any USB keyboard connected to the system. In addition, players can engage in voice and video chat with people on their friends list using a microphone or camera peripheral.

The last section of the PS3 media bar was the Web browser, which Harrison showed was capable of displaying multiple windows. Harrison called up a few Web pages-- including the TGS 2006 home page--and toggled between displaying the lot as thumbnails and focusing on one to view it full screen.

Harrison ended the demonstration of the media bar with a quick demo of the PS3's network-communication functionality, which lets consumers use their PSPs to check out all the media on their PS3s wirelessly.

Harrison's opening chat concluded with a sneak peek at a PS3 game not playable on the TGS show floor, NBA 07. Though the game was less than complete, Harrison noted that it ran at 1080p much like several games on the TGS show floor, including Ridge Racer 7, Gran Turismo HD, and a handful of others.

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