On startup, the system prompts the user to select his or her profile. If a camera is connected, facial recognition will take over and automatically sign in the person holding the controller. Facial recognition will need to go through a one-time setup.
This looked like a vast improvement to the facial recognition I’m used to with the Xbox Kinect. The person running the demonstration stood behind two people. The camera highlighted each face, and then recognized the user as the person who matched the profile.
User Interface Layout
The UI appears to be clean and responsive. A horizontal list of sections, similar to the PS3 interface, are at the top of the screen. The more important sections like the web browser, apps, the game being played, and the “What’s New” sections are housed under the horizontal bar.
“What’s New” and “Life Tiles”
The “What’s New” tab has a heavy social component. Icons called “Life Tiles” are displayed that show all of your friends current or recent activity. This layout is similar to Microsoft Windows’ tile system. If a friend has connected his or her PSN account to Facebook, the person’s Facebook profile picture will be shown next to the username. Users can also choose to display his or her actual name, rather than a PSN name.
If someone recorded footage or is in the middle of streaming a game, you’ll be able to quickly view that from the “What’s New” page. While watching recorded footage or a stream, you’ll have the option to buy the game being played from the PSN instantly.
Facebook integration appears to be a big part of Sony’s new direction. Trophies can be automatically posted to Facebook, as well as screenshots and recorded game footage.
Game DVR and Streaming
The PS4 is capable of taking a screenshot at any time. This includes the system menu. These screenshots can be uploaded to facebook instantly. There is no “processing” or “uploading” status bar after you select to do so. The action is handled in the background.
Game footage can be captured and recorded on day one. The maximum amount of time for video capture is 15 minutes. Video clips can then be uploaded to Facebook. YouTube uploading is not possible at launch, but the Sony representative stated that it was “something the team is looking into.”
There is currently no way to load the saved screenshots or footage to an external source, such as a USB drive or hard drive. The videos are bound to the PS4, with the exception of Facebook uploading.
Twitch and Ustream livestreaming will also be available on day one. Users can login to Twitch.TV or Ustream and start streaming a game right away. PlayStation Camera and mic support for commentary are built into the program. The user can choose to turn these features off or on.
The developers decide whether streaming will be enabled or disabled for their game, although it is enabled for every PS4 launch game. Developers can also choose to disable streaming for specific parts of their game, presumably to prevent the spreading of spoilers.
Trophies will now have a rarity level. They are split into four categories: common, rare, very rare, ultra rare. Each trophy will have a percentage assigned to it that shows what percentage of people who played that game earned that trophy. This adds another layer of competition to the trophy collecting culture.
New PlayStation Store
The store has been given a massive upgrade that will be native to the PS4. The PS3’s store will remain the same.
The store seemed to be significantly faster than the current store. Every PS4 game will be available in the store on its launch day. Games can be purchased, and then played while it downloads. The downloading process will start by downloading just enough of the game to allow you to start playing, and then finish the downloading process while you’re already in the game.
In the case of first-person shooters, the user can tell the PS4 to start downloading single or multiplayer first. This will make it possible for the user to jump right into the mode that he or she wants to play quickly.
This seems to take full advantage of the huge RAM upgrade from the PS3 to the PS4.
Party Chat has finally made its way onto a Sony system. Parties can include a maximum of eight people. The new party chat system also works cross-console with the Vita, meaning vita and PS4 users will be able to chat within the same party.
Quick jump to the browser
The browser can be quickly accessed while double tapping the PlayStation button. The demo suggested the scenario of reading a walkthrough online. A user can quickly switch between browser and game simply by double tapping the button.
It’s unknown if that feature will be able to be keyed to other apps other than the web browser, but imagine that it is possible.
The online features are not live on review consoles at the current time, but are said to go live via update on Wednesday. Everything explained above was shown in a controlled demo, and is not based on hands-on impressions. I’ll be able to confirm that the features work as well as advertised on Wednesday when the update is live. For now, this looks like an extreme upgrade to the PlayStation interface we are used to.
UPDATE 11/11 10:37 PM: There is a correction to the quick jump to the browser feature. The quick jump feature jumps to the previously running app. It does not always jump to the browser.