Bits probably relevant to PS4
- 'the company is working on a system-on-chip (SoC) to underpin the product for "seven to 10 years".'
- 'He describes the architecture in broad terms: "You are talking about powerful CPU and GPU with extra DSP and programmable logic."' (Alternative quote in another article: ' “We are looking at an architecture where the bulk of processing will still sit on the main board, with CPU and graphics added to by more digital signal processing and some configurable logic.”)
- 'Tsuruta-san picked out emerging ‘through silicon via’ designs. These stack chips with interconnects running vertically through them to reduce length, raise performance and reduce power consumption.'
- 'Tsuruta-san has noted the difficulties in achieving viable yields at 28nm, though he believes that these problems are now moving towards a resolution.'
- Tsuruta: "We are confident that we can now see a way and that we can use some of these advanced methods to create a new kind of system-on-chip. We think that there are the technologies today that can be taken to this project.”
- Tsuruta: "We understand that for this, we will need to offer a very strong SDK. We will retain our own OS for the main games and support that with a development environment that is viable. For online and other features, we are also thinking of a simpler approach to a Linux-type environment than on the PlayStation 3,"
- Seems to be a consciousness to try and accommodate potential future peripherals with high bandwidth needs
- '[Vita] features a nine-axis accelerometer (3 accelerometers, 3 gyroscopes and 3 magnetometers), but we could soon see a tenth added to sense pressure and increase environmental feedback still further.'
Bits probably relevant to post-PS4 (peripherals, PS5+ etc.)
- 'For the future of AR, Tsuruta’s presentation imagined a 3D version using lightweight glasses to create a hybrid gaming environment '
- 'the company wants to up the ante in haptics technology...this vision is one that incorporates sufficient touch sensitivity to, say, reproduce the full tactile sensation of stroking a cat'
- 'controllers that incorporate more motion-sensing accelerometers, and even vital signs sensors. There’s even been talk of systems that read players’ eye movements.'
- 'Sony’s target is to get latency for a typical playing experience to below 50ms for framerates of more than 300fps.'
- 'Moreover, the target is not for 1080p resolution, but reflect a drive towards 8kx4k.'
Unless otherwise explicitly noted, the above quotes are from the article. Direct quotes from Tsuruta are hopefully obvious to pick out.
Update: More relevant comments from him in this post.
I posted a much shorter article about this a while ago that went down like a lead balloon, but with all this talk lately of PS4, and with a couple of far more detailed articles appearing on this in the last week, I think it's worth posting about again :)
The first article is just a summary one of a presentation given by SCE's Chief Tech Officer in December, the second taken from an interview with him.
WARNING: The stuff talked about here is rather explicitly not necessarily a feature list for PS4. He notes that some of this stuff is at least 5 years away from fruition. It's just his current take on where things may be heading longer term. Some of the more out there stuff could be relevant within PS4's lifetime in a peripheral sense, though...
The senior technologist in Sony’s PlayStation division provided a tantalising view of the company’s gaming roadmap at the International Electron Devices Meeting in Washington DC this month.
Not all of the road map will feature in the next PlayStation – this was explicitly not a specification – but it seems certain that some of it will, and other elements could be added later via peripherals. Some, though, are more long-term.
(Note: it's believed the next Power architecture will be a stacked design. This is also the architecture that has been speculated could incorporate aspects of Cell's design, or a next-gen SPU...). It's due in 2013.
In terms of semiconductors, Tsuruta-san picked out emerging ‘through silicon via’ designs. These stack chips with interconnects running vertically through them to reduce length, raise performance and reduce power consumption.
Pretty much exactly what I was thinking about as soon as they showed that prototype at CES a couple of years ago.
Looking further out, Tsuruta-san imagined a version of AR ultimately delivered via see-through 3D glasses, essentially a lightweight stereoscopic head-up display. This, however, will have to wait on the capability to deliver a massive amount of real-time graphics processing locally on a headset and to accurately position virtual truly-3D figures in a dynamically changing environment.
On to the interview...actually part interview, part speculation piece by the author:
Consumer technology giant Sony aims to give its next-generation gaming console an up to 10 year shelf-life, according to the CTO of its Computer Entertainment division, Maasaki Tsuruta, speaking exclusively to E&T. This is significantly longer than the market has seen historically, although the PlayStation 3 will be at least seven-years-old by the time its successor appears.
The target longevity of the ‘PlayStation 4’ (it will not be called that) is a simple question of economics - primarily the inflationary economics of electronics system design, believes Tsuruta.
The company is not really talking about its budget, but analysts Like Silicon Map believe that $1bn for the silicon alone would be a lower-end estimate.
“You have to look at the current solutions and the current technologies and see how long you can extend those for the expected life of the product,” Tsuruta admits. “You always want ‘perfect’ technologies, but there are none. So, you look at what is available, and try to get as close as possible to that goal. Even then, some of the things that we want are still five years away [from development].”
Consoles themselves are now only part of the game; highly sophisticated peripherals can deliver as much of a market advantage as the main platform.
If the next PlayStation has to deliver stellar performance out-of-the-box, it also has to have enough processing headroom to carry on delighting the consumer for long after with new options. That means that Sony is, as Tsuruta’s earlier comment suggests, creating a new product with a view to peripherals that will be added post-launch – in some cases, quite some time after – and being more open today about what they are likely to be.
At December 2011’s International Electron Devices Meeting, Tsuruta delivered a keynote on ‘Interactive Games’ that was as much shopping list as strategic vision. It set out a Sony gameplan that includes games which can respond to a player’s emotions, with controllers that incorporate more motion-sensing accelerometers, and even vital signs sensors. There’s even been talk of systems that read players’ eye movements.
Then the company wants to up the ante in haptics technology. Current controllers may vibrate or give some sense of resistance to the user’s movements, but this vision is one that incorporates sufficient touch sensitivity to, say, reproduce the full tactile sensation of stroking a cat.
For the future of AR, Tsuruta’s presentation imagined a 3D version using lightweight glasses to create a hybrid gaming environment - no mean task. Locating 3D virtual objects within ‘flat’ environments is hard enough, particularly in real-time – only a handful of research projects, including SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping) at Imperial College, London’s department of Computing, have even begun to tackle the same challenges for 3D rendered ones.
“For the haptics and the very advanced graphics, we are talking about those five years at least,” Tsuruta says. The fact remains that means Sony’s ambitions and design plans today must already capture the next PlayStation’s peripherals market. That raises several challenges, he acknowledges, not the least of which concern where the digital muscle should go.
These kinds of technology will require more advanced types of sensor technologies such as micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS, a technology branch that includes accelerometers). Not a straightforward design task, but an easier one to locate: they will go in the controller/headset. A bigger question surrounds the traditional ‘heavy-lifting’ processors.
“It took five years before we saw games that used the full power of Cell, so we are used to looking ahead and having capacity,” Tsuruta says. “We are looking at an architecture where the bulk of processing will still sit on the main board, with CPU and graphics added to by more digital signal processing and some configurable logic.”
To give a further, more metric-driven sense of that, Sony’s target is to get latency for a typical playing experience to below 50ms for framerates of more than 300fps. Now, 50ms is an absolute best performance level to start with – most displays actually increase it – for framerates of about 60fps ceiling. Moreover, the target is not for 1080p resolution, but reflect a drive towards 8kx4k.
“We think that the core games will continue to be the most important,” says Tsuruta. “We don’t want to limit what people do on the console and we will have to do more on the server side, account for some aspects of thin client computing. Many people like the ability to play simultaneously, and when the networks are available we would like to open the platform up to more complex content through them… But we will have to wait for a while because current networks have limitations in bandwidth. A typical PlayStation console game is 50GByte – transferring those kinds of size over most of today’s [public IP] networks won’t work. But more important is the experience. The [public IP] networks cannot yet deliver it.”
So while there will be some features that aim to make the cloud-based gaming experience more immersive – “and, this is key, more secure”, Tsuruta adds – the focus remains local.
Given all these factors, if there is a feeling that Sony is ‘late’ in launching a fourth generation PlayStation, these ambitions suggest it is with good reason. Although Tsuruta (obviously) will not disclose the detailed specification, it now seems reasonably obvious that Sony is developing not so much an immersive games console as something that could evolve into a fully-realised virtual reality machine, rather than simply paving the way for one. For sure, there is a lot on that IEDM shopping list that needs to be refined, but most of it already exists in some form, some quite well developed although some is nascent.
I feel like the spirit of Kutaragi is alive and well at SCE :P :D
And this could be the closest you'll get to Sony talking about 'PS4' for a while...