Motion control has come a heck of a long way since the days of clumsy virtual reality headsets. In fact, we seem to be edging ever closer to that scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise flicks a load of stuff around on a screen – except unlike Tom we probably won't even need to wear a pair of special gloves. Join us as we look at how motion control has developed over the past 20 years.
Sega VR (1993)
As entertainment-focussed Windows Media Center PCs started to enter the living rooms of early adopters, it became increasingly clear that Microsoft’s own traditional remote control wasn’t going to cut it: while it was fine for basic media control, it became about as useful as a marzipan hammer when you dipped back into Windows proper.
One excellent response was the Gyration mouse, which could be wielded much like a magic wand. A non-Bluetooth radio link let it communicate wirelessly with your PC, while two gyroscopes detected its 3D motion and translated that into pointer movement on your desktop. Good stuff.
Gyration Media Center Remote (2002)
The launch controller for the PlayStation 3, the Sixaxis resembled a PS2 controller but was wireless and rocked an accelerometer able to track motion across (yep, you guessed it) six axes. This meant it could be used to steer during a racing game or keep Nathan Drake balanced as he walked across a log.
However, gamers didn’t really take to the Sixaxis: it lacked the rumble feedback of the PS2 DualShock controller (due to legal issues), which led to a deluge of criticism – and many felt that the motion controls were poorly developed and gimmicky. In 2008, Sony replaced it with the DualShock 3 which (huzzah!) combined motion-sensing with rumble. Much better.
More after the break...
Nintendo Wii Remote (2006)
Sony introduced its own take on "proper" motion control with the wand-like PS Move, able to accurately track the user’s position (in conjunction with the PlayStation Eye camera) and its own movement through an accelerometer, a rate sensor and a magnetometer – the latter of which detects the Earth’s magnetic field.
Sony PlayStation Sixaxis (2006)
Due for launch later this year, Leap Motion’s “Leap” device takes a similar approach to Kinect, but rather than track your entire body it concentrates on your hands and fingers by using a USB peripheral to record their motion in a small space above your desktop.
You can perform gestures like pinch-to-zoom, manipulate complex 3D models using one or both hands, draw accurately with your finger and even play FPS games (holding an imaginary gun and pulling your trigger finger to shoot). You can even use simple tools like chopsticks – and use them to play Angry Birds. It’s the closest to a Minority Report-style controller we’ve seen, and we’re mightily impressed with its potential – not to mention its low price tag of US$70 (£45).
Best iPhone apps this week