Xbox Advanced is reporting that Microsoft has plans to include an camera similar to the PlayStation 2's Eye Toy in the Xbox Next/2/360/etc. If true, current plans involve mounting the camera to the top of the television to capture player gestures and movements. "We're trying to take some learning’s from what our competition has done with cameras that let players control games" is the quote from J Allard of Microsoft's Xbox division, keeping a consistent behavior with how Microsoft sometimes finds success in the market: take a competitor's idea and make it better. Microsoft Japan already has a video conference application for the current Xbox, so it makes sense that the company would want to continue to develop camera accessories.
External cameras for use in video games is nothing new; PC webcams have been on the market for years, Sony has the aforementioned Eye Toy, and even Nintendo had their little Game Boy Camera in the 1990s. Actually making good use of a camera is the challenge now if Microsoft wants developers to use it in the next Xbox. After all, what good is a peripheral if nobody uses it?
Adding player photos to Xbox Live is an obvious application, but Microsoft needs to think bigger. Rareware once tried to use the Game Boy Camera connected to the Nintendo 64 to allow players to map their faces to their in-game counterparts in Perfect Dark, but the feature was removed before the game shipped after concerns of children shooting their friends' faces during gameplay appeared in the media. Why not revive this feature for the upcoming suspected launch title Perfect Dark Zero? Microsoft seemingly has no qualms with in-game violence, so why hold back on such a feature? Or better yet, use the camera to update avatar faces from time to time during gameplay, allowing players to slap their current facial expressions into the game. Blast your buddy to bits enough times and you'll see his or her angry face, for instance.
Then there's the concept of using the camera to monitor player movements and use those movements to control gameplay. Imagine the next incarnation of Halo requiring players to physically get off the couch and move around the room to make the most of the game or a racing game where players can lean to the left or right to bank around corners. There's plenty of possibilities out there. Microsoft need only develop them.