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Motion Tracking Controller For PC?

I can shoot dead people.

Are you ready to have the way you play PC games revolutionised? No? Well tough, because a man said it’s going to happen. News from Consumer Electronics Show suggests that there’s a push to convince us we need a six-axis/Wii remote/wavy throwy gun-style controller for the PC, and no less than Valve are providing the shouting. The attack is coming from three companies, peripheral manufacturer Razer, Sixense, a motion tracking tech company, and them there Valve lot, who appear to be suggesting it’s how we should be playing Left 4 Dead 2.

This device will, according to Shacknews, offer “…ultra-precise one-to-one motion sensing controllers that use electromagnetic fields to track precise movements along all six axes.” Cor. It is to apparently get around the problems of other similar controllers that use LEDs, gyros, accelerometers and cameras, which Sixense claims do not perform well enough, by using magnets. Or “magnetic motion tracking” to be precise. This, they say, provides “precise and continuous position and orientation information for uninterrupted gameplay.”

This new, currently only prototyped gadget is yet to be named, but Sixense’s chairman Avi Arad explains that it will “truly revolutionize how games are played on the PC.” And Valve seem to be backing this claim. Chet Faliszek, in full-on marketing man press release mode, made the following confident statement:

“With this controller, Razer and Sixense have created the most immersive way to play our games. For us and for our customers, this release represents motion-enabled gaming that’s more integrated and visceral than any platform has so far achieved.”

The boasts for the tech are impressive. There press release says this:

“Marking the next step in user interface technologies for gaming on the PC, Razer and Sixense scientists and engineers along with select PC OEM partners have been working on ultra-precise one-to-one motion sensing controllers that use electromagnetic fields to track precise movements along all six axes for use in current and future generation PC games. The absolute controller position is tracked to within a mere millimeter for positioning and to a degree for orientation.”

I find myself a little sceptical about it. Short of rolling balls around mazes, I’ve never felt much of a need for Wii-type controls on my PC. I’ve always found pressing W a lot less mental effort than having to tip a physical object forward in order to move. I’m assuming this is mostly about offering us a sophisticated light gun, but again, doesn’t the mouse do a more accurate job? But I’m a short-sighted buffoon, and it’s up to you to tell me why I should be excited and interested in having motion sensing control in my computer games. Educate me.

If you happen to be passing Las Vegas this week, you can see the prototype being demonstrated by Valve at CES in the Las Vegas Convention Center. Here’s the awesome John Carmack discussing Sixense, for even more bloody context.

PS. I was trying to work out why Arad’s name rang a bell. Then I remembered he was in charge of Marvel back in 2005, when they were trying to sue NCSoft for City Of Heroes letting you so egregiously violate Marvel’s copyright with pretend Lycra costumes. It struck me as funny then to make him as a character in the game, since it turned out his name wasn’t taken. It still strikes me as quite funny now. As far as I know he’s still somewhere in Paragon City.

Those were the days.

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John Walker

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One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I tried to leave, but they won't let me. If anyone reads this, please send help.

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