Destructoid's PlayStation 4 controller image leak is more significant than overnight reports have suggested. Our sources confirm that what you're actually looking at is a complete Orbis dev kit - our first look at what we believe is advanced development hardware. The Dual Shock 4 prototype itself is a significant leap beyond its predecessor, featuring a two-point touchpad interface and, in addition, a built-in loudspeaker and what we understand to be integrated PlayStation Move functionality.
The dev kit itself is a big old beast, but that's nothing new. The development versions of Sony hardware are historically rather immense compared to the production systems, as you can see from these shots of PS3 dev kits. Indeed, the Orbis kit looks surprisingly svelte by comparison.
The custom casing won't give us too many hints on the form factor of the final console, but we'd imagine that the two USB 3.0 slots will make their way across to the production machine and we're fairly sure that's a standard slot-loading 50GB Blu-ray drive based on information from our sources. The two black "bumpers" on each end of the casing are interesting - initially we thought they may be elements of the much-rumoured dual camera system, but the reality is probably more mundane - we reckon they form part of the WiFi and Bluetooth antenna assembly. Next to the right bumper we see a range of embedded status indicator LEDs - this is standard equipment for Sony development hardware: variations are seen on both PS3 and even Vita dev kits.
But yes, clearly it's the controller that is the star of this particular leak as opposed to a PC-like metal box. Sources have claimed it's an early, clumsy prototype but our understanding is that these are more recent than many claim, looking rather portly owing to the angle the picture was shot at. While this is not final production hardware, it is probably a fairly close approximation of the controller that Orbis is set to ship with. From our perspective it's potentially a very exciting piece of hardware, bearing many of the hallmarks of design work from PlayStation Move creator Dr Richard Marks and his R&D team at SCEA.
There are two major headline features here. First up, there's the touchpad integrated into the face of the controller (there's no corresponding touch interface on the back). It's a two-point multi-touch interface similar to the rear pad on PlayStation Vita, and should allow for finer, more granular control than the less sensitive analogue sticks - think of the minute movements required for lining up a head-shot, for example.
"Sony's input device design encompasses Kinect-style features but focuses on the fingers as the primary interface for gaming in what is an innovative design."
Refining the interface in this way is perfectly consistent with what Richard Marks told us back at E3 2010:
"In one of his books, Isaac Asimov talks about the difference between humans and animals and he believes it's our hands that make us different, more than our brains," he said.
"Most people say it's the brain that's so much better, but he says it's the hands. He says that the ultimate interface to a computer isn't a probe that jacks into your head, it's where you insert your hands into this device... you have so much fidelity with your fingers and wrists. It's such a high dynamic input..."
A closer link to the work of Marks and his team can be seen in the big blue rectangular light on the top of the pad, strongly suggesting that not only will PlayStation Move return for Orbis, it will actually be integrated into the Dual Shock itself. This is big news, having important ramifications for other areas of the system. The original iteration of Move was an ingenious design: PlayStation Eye locked onto the glowing sphere via calibration and then judged depth owing to the size of the sphere in its 2D field of view. The closer the sphere, the bigger it would be on the camera image and no matter which way you held the controller, the PS3 would still be able to lock on it as the shape of the sphere would not change, only its size. Clearly things have altered with the new Dual Shock.
Orbis is said to ship with a dual camera set-up - right now, this is just a theory but our best guess is that Dual Shock 4 calibrates itself with the cameras in a similar way to PS3 Move, but in the absence of a constant glowing sphere to lock onto, the dual cams track the rectangular light, with the difference between the two perspectives used to judge depth. Details on the dual cam set-up are thin on the ground at the moment, but this looks like an ingenious way to offer Kinect-style functionality without infringing Microsoft's patents. Other elements of controller orientation could be ascertained in exactly the same way they are in PlayStation Vita - the motion sensor and gyroscope technology in the handheld is more than up to the task.
We can identify other interesting elements on the Dual Shock 4 prototype too. Yes, that is a Wii-style integrated loudspeaker directly above the PlayStation logo on the pad, while the little bump directly beneath it is a headphone (or perhaps a headset) jack. We can safely assume that the Bluetooth/USB connectivity of the existing DS3 remains the primary interface to the system itself.
So this latest in a long line of leaks is definitely our first look at the real deal. Bearing in mind that we're just five days away from the official Orbis reveal, we can imagine that Sony isn't very happy about this at all and will clearly be looking to track down the source of the photo. Quite where it hails from is a mystery, though the development studio in question is clearly in possession of quite a bit of Nintendo dev hardware. Sitting directly on top of the Orbis kit is what looks like a Wii dev kit (though we've not seen one quite like that before), while to the right, almost out of shot is the back-end of a Wii U test kit - you can see the wired connection to the dev GamePad snaking its way under the Orbis and out of shot to the right. Other than that, clues as to the provenance of this leak are thin on the ground to say the least...
Will you support the Digital Foundry team?
Digital Foundry specialises in technical analysis of gaming hardware and software, using state-of-the-art capture systems and bespoke software to show you how well games and hardware run, visualising precisely what they're capable of. In order to show you what 4K gaming actually looks like we needed to build our own platform to supply high quality 4K video for offline viewing. So we did.
Our videos are multi-gigabyte files and we've chosen a high quality provider to ensure fast downloads. However, that bandwidth isn't free and so we charge a small monthly subscription fee of $5. We think it's a small price to pay for unlimited access to top-tier quality encodes of our content. Thank you.Support Digital Foundry