Sony’s drip-feed of PlayStation 5 information continued on Thursday with a surprise reveal of the upcoming console’s “Control Center” interface. Sony has typically been bullish on updating its system menus between console generations, and the PlayStation 5 is clearly no exception.
The biggest feature revealed in this week’s video is “Activities,” a system-level companion to most consoles’ “trophy” or “achievement” lists. In the case of PS5, when you’re playing a supported game, you can tap into the Control Center to see levels, quests, or objectives that are available in your game (content you’ve already reached or unlocked, not spoilers). The idea is that you might have blown through a platforming level from start to finish but missed hidden items and collectibles needed to unlock a PS5 trophy.
Tap one of these Activity cards, and you’ll quick-load into the relevant part of the game (thus flexing the PS5’s NVMe 4.0 loading-time boosts) then be presented with a series of hints for any objectives or collectibles you’ve missed. At this point, if you’re a paying PlayStation Plus subscriber, you can tap these hints to see pictures or video to guide your way instead of grabbing a nearby phone or laptop to search for a user-made tutorial. Then tap an additional button to leave these hints open in picture-in-picture mode.
Sony’s video doesn’t clarify how many games we should expect these hints to appear in or whether Sony itself might build these hints and systems for non-Sony games. From the look of things, it will be up to individual game developers to build Activities and related hints.
The video additionally confirms a funky picture-in-picture option for at least one type of video content: your friends’ gameplay feeds. This requires your friend to tap “screen share” on their own system, at which point you can slap their video feed onto your screen, either as part of a dedicated column or as an embed on top of your own gameplay.
We at Ars Technica aren’t partial to watching friends’ gameplay feeds while playing games. One game at a time over here, please. But we have other ideas for the feature, which currently raises an interesting question. While the rest of the video included a look at the “main menu” interface, which can be accessed with a double-tap of the PlayStation button and better resembles the game-library interface of PS4, the video’s narrator made clear that Sony wasn’t ready to reveal PS5’s “media” suite of features.
Xbox One launched with “Snap” as a way to embed media apps in a sidebar next to whatever game you were playing, only to retire this feature in 2017. Among other things, killing the feature opened up more processing power to games. But the PS5 appears to have power to spare for things like video streaming; does this mean we should expect media apps like YouTube, Twitch, or Netflix to work as picture-in-picture feeds, so that you can watch your favorite binge-worthy series while grinding through dailies in Destiny 2, Warframe, and the like? Currently, Sony isn’t saying.
This second gallery offers a look at the main menu interface, which was only briefly explored in the video. Among other things, it appears to confirm that the PlayStation Store interface is now directly tied to the main menus instead of requiring a boot into a separate app, and its advertisement-filled “Explore” tab essentially keeps the rest of the game-choosing interface clean instead of placing ad-filled blocks on any default pages.
Additionally, we finally got a confirmation of what we’d long assumed: that the DualSense controller’s built-in microphone will enable instant speech-to-text messaging, should you wish to quickly send a message or photo caption to friends without hunting and pecking over an on-screen keyboard.
Should you wish to hunt for more PS5 clues, the original video is embedded below.