The evolution of motion control
Apple iPhone (2007)
Apple’s first generation iPhone was among the first mobiles to feature an accelerometer, most frequently used to auto-rotate the screen when you flipped the phone between portrait and landscape modes. It also made a handy games controller for certain titles, as you could tilt the phone to steer.
Since then, accelerometers and gyroscopes have become as vital a part of smartphone design and usability as touchscreens and GPS – for instance the Samsung Galaxy S II and its tilt-to-zoom function.
Sony PlayStation Move (2010)
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.
Microsoft Kinect (2010)
Like Sony, Microsoft attempted to emulate the Wii’s success with motion control through its own technology – but it did away with a physical controller completely. Kinect uses a sophisticated (but affordable) camera to track the body movement of the player in three dimensions, so in essence your body becomes the controller. 48 skeletal points can be monitored in total, allowing for a surprising degree of accuracy. The only downside? You need a fair old bit of space to swing your arms and legs around.
Leap Motion (2012)
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).