With less than a week to go before Sony is expected to announce the PlayStation 4 release date, new photos and a rumor about PlayStation 3 game streaming are painting an early picture of just what "the future" of PlayStation could bring.

Earlier this week, two photos of alleged PlayStation 4 controller prototypes appeared online; first on Destructoid, and then on the Gametrailers forums less than 24-hours later. Forum user SquishyMuffin claims that the new PlayStation 4 controller's triggers are "springy" like those found on the official Xbox 360 controller, and that the remote features a single-touch resistive display touch screen; despite prior reports that the PlayStation 4 controller would ship with a two-point multi-touch pad.

Click HERE to see the latest prototype Playstation 4 controller photo

The controllers appear to have integrated PlayStation Move functionality, with a tracking bar front and between the PlayStation 4 controller's presumed L1/R1 triggers. While the controller retains much of the classic DualShock form factor, including identically-placed dual analog sticks, though the PlayStation 4 remote's joysticks have a distinctive ring around their edges. The aforementioned touch pad has also forced relocation of the Start and Select buttons, though it's unclear what role it will play during gaming sessions. Previous reports have suggested that the touch pad will allow for gaming experiences similar to those found on the PS Vita, though they have yet to be confirmed by Sony.

In addition to the controllers, those paying close attention to Sony's next console ahead of the PlayStation 4 release date also learned about the company's plans for backwards compatibility when the PlayStation 4 hits the market before the end of 2013. Last year, Sony purchased game-streaming company Gaikai for $380 million, but refused to comment on the company's plans for the future of Gaikai. Now, one outlet claims that the future of Gaikai will, in fact, be tied quite closely to the future of PlayStation.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Gaikai will play a central role in Sony's future online strategy, with word that the company will use the game streaming service to make the PlayStation 3 back-catalogue available to PlayStation 4 owners after the console hits stores later this year. There's no guarantee that the PlayStation 4 will become Sony's second straight console to lack hardware-enabled backwards-compatibility -- with all but a handful of PlayStation 3's offering either software-compatibility or none whatsoever -- but it certainly sounds as if the company plans to use Gaikai and the PlayStation 3 library as an incentive for PlayStation 4 owners to use PSN.

Sony is expected to officially unveil the PlayStation 4 during a press event in New York City on Wednesday, February 20, 2013. The company is also expected to show off the upcoming console during the "Destination PlayStation" event beginning on February 25.

Be sure to check back with iDigitalTimes.com or follow Scott on Twitter for all the latest on the PlayStation 4 ahead of the console's release date later this year.

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