With the meteoric rise of products like the Kinect and the Wii, motion-based gaming is seemingly here to stay, but according to Sixense Entertainment —makers of the underlying tech in Razer's Hydra motion controllers — there's still room for innovation. Today, the company launched a new Kickstarter campaign to raise awareness and funds for a new motion gaming system called the STEM, which not only promises to deliver superior precision, but a modular, open-source design that will enable developers to easily integrate it into a wide variety of games.
The system uses compact, wireless motion trackers that can be integrated into controllers or strapped to your head, arms, and legs alongside a base station that generates electromagnetic field. In effect, the STEM is capable of detecting a player's motion, orientation, and position within a 3D space with up to 3 millimeters of accuracy. This contrasts to traditional motion systems, which rely on built-in inertial sensors, like gyroscopes, and cameras to detect a player's activity, which can be prone to calibration loss or obstruction by objects in your house.
In a hands-on demo, Sixense showcased how the sensors can be paired with with the Oculus VR. With two STEM-enabled controllers and a sensor strapped to the Oculus, I was able to navigate a lavish, Tuscany villa in ways otherwise impossible. The STEM was able to detect when I leaned my head forward, allowing me to lean out of windows or squat down and peer into a chimney flume. Immediately, I thought about how such a mechanic could benefit an action title, affording players to lean forward over an edge and attack enemies below.
A different demo highlighted how the system could allow players to realistically interact with objects and environments. By tracking the sensors within a 3D space, I was able to physically reach out and grab the bars of an in-game ladder and begin a climb; pulling myself up, step by step. The experience was jarring — not because it was unnatural, but because years of gaming norms have taught me that the real-life motion is rarely required, and sometimes even the least precise way to navigate.
But the precision of the STEM is only part of its promise, Sixense is also making the hardware and software totally open-source. Developers can use the system's SDK with "virtually no restrictions" and integrate support for the STEM's motion trackers with relative ease. The SDK is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and perhaps most importantly, is completely backwards compatible with the previous version of Sixense and apps and games designed for the Razer Hydra. What's more, the company is also offering up the exact specifications of the STEM's modular trackers so peripheral makers can design controllers and other attachments.
To get the ball rolling, Sixense has designed its own prototype controllers and a docking station, which will be offered to Kickstarter backers. Backers can pre-order a system with up to 5 unique motion trackers, as well as the controllers and docking station. The lowest backer level costs $149 and includes the base station, two trackers, two controllers, a carrying case, and a t-shirt. The first units are expected to ship in July of next year.
Source : ign[dot]com