Dreameye Dreamcast Camera

Originally, launching back on September 9, 2000 in Japan the ‘Internet Digital Video Camera’ or the Sega Dreameye was quite a revolutionary piece of equipment for its time. It launched at a reasonable 14,800 yen and was primarily designed for use with Sega's online network as a webcam and digital camera, although there were plans for Dreamcast games to involve the Dreameye and some titles like Jet Set Radio eventually did (more on that later). 

The Dreameye - hello, love, friendly? How happy is that packaging!

Inside the box, you get the Dreameye, a microphone headset, a stand, batteries, software, a cable to connect it to the Dreamcast, a Dreameye microphone plug card, and 2 AA batteries. Yup, that's right, pop in a couple of AA batteries and you can use it on the go; ultimate Dreamcast chic! 

A very understated design, the blue compartment can be removed to change batteries
The camera certainly looks cool, in that Dreamcast cute kind of way, it's compact, and the build quality is pretty reasonable considering the initial price of the hardware. It is interesting to note the colour of the Dreamcast swirl on front which is more akin to the European version than the more common Japanese and US orange one. Spec wise, it's pretty archaic by today's standards; offering a resolution of 3 megapixels (640×480 pixels), which isn’t wholly terrible but the kicker is to send them via email or upload them into certain games the pictures have to be first saved to a VMU and transferring pictures re-sizes them to a resolution of just 320px by 240px. It can also be used to take short video clips of up to 27 seconds, ahh the noughties!

The Dreameye Set
The microphone is interesting, although it plugs into the expansion slot of the Dreamcast controller like the mic that comes with Seaman it actually connects to a headset so you don’t have to keep hold of the controller while you talk, although you do end up looking a bit like a telephone operator. 

There were two versions of the Dreameye released, the standard camera only version and the Visual Park edition. Visual Park is basically a photo & video editing program which allows you to view or send files on the camera and mess around adding seals and stamps on top of your files. Here I messed around with a picture I took during the day. The picture quality isn't too pad, although obviously doesn't compare to today's high resolution camera's. Files are store in the standard J-peg format and the seals inside visual park remind me of the ones you see in the purikura booths, or photo booths, around Japan which are so popular with teenagers.

There are a variety of Sega specific stamps are available and you can achieve some pretty interesting pictures with minimal effort. It uses quite an intuitive and easy to use system with the d- pad used to re-size icons, up and down alter the height, right and left changes the angle and the analogue is used to move the stickers. I had a lot of fun with it, and it would have been nice to access a lot of the other features which were either unavailable offline, or completely off limits due to the closure of the Dreameye servers. Again, it seems pretty archaic by today’s standards but it would have been quite a novelty back in 2001. A skeleton green model also came with the Divers 2000 Dreamcast (the rare all-in-one console unit developed by Fuji, intended as a video communications and gaming device for the consumer and hospitality markets).

Seiken (True Fist) Dash, was just one of the mini-games playable !
Interestingly, when the servers were still up and video conferencing using the Dreameye was still possible there were a few mini-games that could be accessed while you waited for the servers to connect. These were short games entitled "waiting time" titles, and were usually simple affairs such as copying the onscreen inputs similar to the much lauded, Quick Time Events in Shenmue. Still, as fun little distractions they were a welcome addition, it is just a shame that these titles cannot be accessed today. 

JSR and custom tags, the outcome inevitable...

As mentioned earlier the Dreameye is at least compatible with one game, which is Jet Set Radio (De La JSR is also compatible). Back in the day, there was a thriving JSR graffiti community designing custom tags, usually designed in the game’s graffiti editor or taken using a camera, and uploading them to the Jet Set Radio website. As the servers are now gone the best way of violating the streets of Tokyo with your melon cat images, or whatnot is to snap a picture and import the image to the graffiti editor using the Dreameye, awesome!

So overall, these days the Dreameye falls more into the realm of a collection piece rather than anything intrinsically useful. Still, it has more use than the obsolete karaoke unit and as a curio it is fun to see the ideas Sega had and were putting into place, way before any of its rivals were even considering such a thing. And if that isn't enough, then you should at least be happy in the knowledge that you can always use it to import pictures of naked women into Jet Set Radio, just as Sega would have wanted.