nVision 08: Sixense 3D Interface – Coolest Thing Ever!

The Wiimote has come of age, thanks to Sixense.

Having already had a play with Viewsonic and Mitsubishi’s 3D displays, and watched Jeff Hans’ multi-touch demo on-stage at Jen-Hsun Huang’s keynote I thought I’d probably seen the coolest stuff I was going to see at nVision. Walking into the exhibition hall, though, a company that’s kept itself under the radar until now proved me dead wrong.

Sixense’s technology is best thought of as a turbo-charged Wiimote. The technologies are very similar, because both allow tracking of a remote control’s location. Unlike the Wii, though, Sixense isn’t based on inertia, but rather millimetre precise tracking relative to a base station. Talking to the company reps (all quite evidently as excited about their product as I was!) they suggested their engineers reckon they could get even more precision if they wanted to – frankly, going on what I saw, that isn’t necessary.

With two controllers attached to the system it was jokingly referred to as “twelve degrees of freedom” which is almost an understatement. No matter what way the controller is moved, twisted, spun or rotated the object on the screen mimics that movement exactly.

A Sixense dev kit was hooked up to a big TV running a series of simple demos. Obviously the most awesome was the obligatory lightsaber mini-game (seriously LucasArts, talk to these guys!), but trying my hand at a quick bit of Golf, both putting and driving, Baseball, Rugby and a sort of Paintball game I honestly can’t describe how incredible the experience was.

In the shooting mini-game, for example, there was a wall in front of your characters position. Rather than pressing a button to crouch below it, though, I simply crouched myself and the controller’s location tracking meant that not only was I then behind the barrier, I could raise my hand to shoot over it, too.

Just when I thought it was all disappointingly over, though, Sixense broke out the big guns – a sandbox environment wherein you could use two controllers to navigate around, grab objects, manipulate free-floating menus… I could go on, but the best way to demonstrate this is in video, which fortunately I managed to capture.

I’ll be posting a couple more videos of me failing miserably to be as good as Sixense’s tech guy once I get a chance – mainly because they’re a brilliant indicator of how intuitive the 3D control method is. After maybe 30 seconds and a few pointers I pretty much had the basics of grabbing and moving objects and navigating a 3D space (as videoed below – I think Tim of bit-tech got my good side). I really want to see Spore with this kind of interface!

Amir Rubin, Sixense’s CEO, says that several big name game developers have had dev kits for some six months now and that they’re all unsurprisingly psyched about the potential. Call of Duty and EA’s numerous sports franchises were mentioned as possible titles whose developers have been looking at integrating Sixense. Rubin also mentioned they’ve been speaking to console manufacturers about getting the tech into controllers – you’ll notice that two Sixense controllers together do look rather gamepad-like.

If nVidia and Sixense can work together with developers to get this technology working alongside nVidia’s 3D display kit, the potential really is mind-boggling. For now, though, I honestly can’t wait to see some ‘real’ games integrating Sixense’s technology to hit the street!

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