PlayStation 3’s SIXAXIS has six degrees of tilting freedom, and the Wii-Mote offers tilt and motion tracking capabilities, but new technology from UK peripherals specialist In2Games could create a level playing field for all gaming platforms; from console to PC.
Named Gametrak Fusion, it uses a patent-pending ultrasonic and RF system to track the motion of a Wii-Mote-style controller, using a small base unit on the floor in front of the player. A 3D accelerometer in the controller also provides data on absolute position and orientation.
Combined together, the company claims it is both more accurate and more flexible in terms how it can be applied to games than Wii’s technology. For example, it offers better range and isn’t affected by ambient lighting conditions. Perhaps more interesting however, because the USB-based system is expected to be available for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC platforms, it will provide a potential secondary market for publishers who have developed custom games for the Wii’s hitherto unique controller system. Indeed, In2Games’ managing director Elliot Myers goes so far as to refer to Fusion as providing Wii emulation, albeit with the proviso that it’s more capable.
One example of this is the technical demonstration tennis game used at Fusion’s press unveiling in London. Compared to Wii Sports’ Tennis, the game gave a better feeling of control as you hit the ball, as well as more robust detection of topspin and slice hitting.
“Accelerometers on their own will usually max out when you swing the racket quickly,” Myers explained. “Combining them with the ultrasonic technology means we can not only track when the player swings, but also where they are on the court, the angle of the racquet as it hits the ball, and the precise arc of the swing.”
There remains some way to go until the technology is released however, with a summer/fall 2007 launch scheduled. Pricing is unconfirmed but the base unit and wand are expected to be available for less than £30 ($56).
Myers says In2Games expects to release around 20 titles over a four year period, the majority of which will be sports-related. The company had some success with an earlier wired motion controller for which it released a golf game which sold over 300,000 units.
Sports expected to be covered include tennis, baseball and golf. Each of these will be supported with a bundled add-on accessory - such as a racket or club head, which clips onto the baton-style wireless handset. Other options will be available though, with In2Games also demonstrating a Ten-pin bowling which is played with a small plastic bowling ball.
“We hope to do for sports games what Guitar Hero did for music games,” Myers said.
It won’t be limited just to sports though. Other options include gun heads, while Myers speculated Fusion’s underlying technology could even be combined with standard console controllers, to create something that could split into two pieces (one for each hand), and hence be used to provide for melee combat or climbing elements in more traditional action games.
“We’ve got the best technology, with incredible functionality allowing developers to produce exciting new games specifically for the system - taking advantage of its unique features - or to allow titles which use motion sensing to be published on any platform”, he said. “It’s an exceptional proposition - for the industry and for consumers. We can’t wait to begin showing it off.”