It was the year 2006, and the gaming industry was in the grasp of the PlayStation and Xbox along with the PC, but Gaming on these devices was not for everyone and the games were getting really monotonous with similar themes and functions, then came the Wii, Nintendo’s answer to Sony’s PlayStation and the Microsoft Xbox, the Wii bought with it the controller that could very well define the next stage in man machine interface for gaming. The simplicity of using a controller to interact physically with your TV was something that even newbie gamers could not resist. The success of the Wii is not only clear from the sales but also in the fact that the 2 biggest competitors in Sony and Microsoft decided to give a shot to their own versions of the Wii Controllers.
If it was Apple, they would have patented the control technique and not let competition, rather Nintendo fuelled competition by letting their competitors come up with alternate versions as they perfected and improved on the controller and the games and offering for the Wii Console. Starting from tennis, boxing, to fitness application with the Wii Fit, Nintendo has changed the ‘fat boy’ look of the traditional gamer into a normal person who likes any sort of physical activity. This in itself is a feat matching no other. The Control adopted in the gesture controllers might be taken a step ahead based on what Intel is trying to achieve, with the new remote controller for the TV. But, before we go there, here is a small preview of the 3 gesture controllers available in the market today.
The Nintendo Wii Controller (The Original)
The awesome controller is coming up with a new Wii Motion Plus, an improvement on the earlier Wii Motion controller The device incorporates a two-axis tuning fork gyroscope, which can determine rotational motion. The information captured by the angular rate sensor can then be used to distinguish true linear motion from the accelerometer readings. This allows for the capture of more complex movements than possible with the Wii Remote alone. The Wii MotionPlus features a pass-through External Extension Connector, allowing other expansions such as the Nunchuk or Classic Controller to be used simultaneously with the device. The attachment has a color-coded mechanical slide switch for locking the clip release. When attached to the Wii Remote, the unit extends the length of the controller body by approximately 11⁄2 in (4 cm). Each Wii MotionPlus includes a longer version of the Wii Remote Jacket to accommodate the added length. The device is only used by games that have been specifically developed to use its functionality. It can remain attached to the Wii Remote when playing games that do not support it without causing any problems, but it will not enhance gameplay. Now the Nintendo folks have sold about as many Wiis as Microsoft and Sony have sold Xbox 360s and PlayStation 3s put together. They are geniuses.
Sony PlayStation Move
The PlayStation Move is being described as a “platform” and a “virtual console launch” by folks at Sony, and we think they mean it, so prepare for a motion-controlled ad war later this year, as Microsoft and Sony set themselves up for a real three-way fight with Nintendo for your physical living room activity of the gaming variety. Where Move departs from the Wii is that while the Wii has detection of movement (with its built-in accelerometers), pointing (with the sensor bar), or even exact orientation (with that addition of MotionPlus), Move can track its controller precisely within real 3D space, instead of just relative movement based on a previous position. For gameplay this means less of those cute little flicks Wii pros have come so fond of — most gameplay motions require a full and complete movement on Move — but it also means interesting things for augmented reality. Of course, for augmented reality you need a camera, and lucky for Sony it has the PlayStation Eye already on the market.
In fact, the Move system is partly based on what the Eye can detect of those cute colored balls at the end of each Move controller, which lets the PlayStation know how far away from the camera the controller is, and map, say, a tennis racket exactly to a user’s hand. That ball serves quite a few purposes. Firstly, it’s tracked by the PlayStation Eye for its X, Y, and Z positioning in 3D space, based on its size and location in the camera field. One thing that helps it be tracked is the fact that it lights up from within, but those lights serve an additional purpose of conveying game info. None of the games we played last night used this feature (picking instead an arbitrary color), but most of them were planning on it. The ball can flash any RGB color, and has a really delightful glow to it. It’s easily the most distinctive bit of the whole setup visually, and expect your less-informed friends to be asking you about “that controller with the funny glowing ball at the end of it” as we near the launch.
Microsoft Project Natal
The Microsoft people may or may not be geniuses, but they’re definitely geniuses at figuring out who the geniuses in the room are and then doing what they’re doing. Today at E3, Microsoft announced a new technology that, like the Wii, uses motion-sensing to control video games. But it may just be better than the Wii. In fact it may just kill the Wii. They wanted a technology that would enable a gamer to control the game just by moving his or her arms and legs and other body parts. The gamer would become the controller. Microsoft has finally shown us what matters with real games, real gameplay, and real hardware, and after spending some time with it using our very own human flesh to control the on-screen action, we feel like we’re starting to get a pretty good grip on the experience. Kinect combines a few detection mechanisms to build up a rather accurate and comprehensive amount of 3D data on what’s going on inside a room. There’s a color camera for taking pictures, recognizing faces, and so forth, but the real magic happens with the monochrome CMOS camera sensor that’s paired up with an IR blaster. Microsoft calls this its “depth sensor,” and the light and shadow of that image (lit by the human eye-invisible IR spectrum) is analyzed to build a 3D map of the objects within Kinect’s field of view. Finally, there’s a multi-array microphone setup to detect location of voices and to cancel out ambient noise, allowing for video chats without a headset.
All of this sits atop a motorized tilting base of sorts. Microsoft hasn’t gone into detail about the range of the motor, but when used in conjunction with skeletal and facial tracking, Kinect can pan and tilt to keep its sensors trained on you as you move around the room. One down side of the motorized base, however, along with the rest of the fairly complicated electronics, is that the Kinect hardware isn’t tiny: it’s about a hand’s width tall, about as deep, and around a foot wide. When you think about it, the entire Wii occupies less cubic real estate. It shouldn’t have much trouble squeezing in up in front of your LCD TV, but good luck trying to balance it on top, and we have no idea how folks who hang their TVs on the wall should approach this situation.
All these gaming innovations are surely going to make our living rooms easily into playground or battlefields. Let’s see where it goes.