December 10, 2007 4:00 AM PST

New game controller: Your hands

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But not everyone thinks 3DV is about to change the way things work in the video game industry.

That's in part due to the success of established systems like the Wii and its Wiimote, and the fact that developers like Microsoft and Sony are eagerly looking for ways to cut costs associated with their consoles, not add to them.

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Video: 3DV's depth-sensing camera
ZCam aims to free gamers from traditional controllers.

"My reaction (to ZCam) is that it's probably not going to have a dramatic impact on the gaming market," said Van Baker, an analyst at Gartner who had not been briefed on 3DV's technology, "because it's not like this technology hasn't been around in some form or another."

Baker added that he'd seen a form of camera technology four or five years ago that allowed players to augment their input for games such as volleyball, and that Sony's EyeToy offered similar capabilities.

He acknowledged that those systems worked in two dimensions, while ZCam's 3D technology is probably a big step forward.

"But I don't think it's going to be such a dramatic improvement that it's going to fundamentally change the game space," Baker said. "What console manufacturers would have to do to get the attention of (game) developers is to include it in every console unit...and that's unlikely (as) they're looking to cut costs."

But one well-known technologist may have a different view than Baker.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, in fact, has hinted that technology like that of 3DV could play a role in the company's future video game efforts.

Gates talked about the possibility of such controls, during a joint interview with Steve Jobs at this year's "D: All Things Digital" conference.

"Imagine a game machine where you're just going to pick up the bat and swing it, or the tennis racket and swing it," Gates said.

Moderators Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher mocked Gates, saying such a technology already exists and it's called the Wii. But Gates disagreed. "No, that's not it. You can't pick up your tennis racket."

He later added, "You can't sit there with your friends and do those natural things," he said. "That's a 3D positional device. This is video recognition. This is a camera seeing what's going on."

In an October interview with CNET News.com, Gates talked about a broadening role for such natural interfaces.

"People kind of gasp when they see how touch works on Surface, you know, when they touch their iPhone," he said. "'Oooo, wow,' you know, that's just such a natural thing."

He talked about them moving beyond computing devices and into other objects like tables and mirrors.

"Give us a 5- to 10-year time frame and we will wonder why our tables used to sit there and not do anything for us," Gates said.

CNET News.com reporter Ina Fried contributed to this report.

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8 comments

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It's a shame that Sony is only mentioned as a footnote
I think the article could have benefited from a little more investigation of what Sony has been doing and researching with camera-based motion detection on the Playstation platform. Their lead researcher, Dr. Richard Marks, has been demonstrating the same IR tech for a few years now, citing cost as the main barrier to implementation in a game platform at the moment.
Posted by purpleLightning (87 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Like Wii, Could Be Big If Done Right
Nintendo wasn't the first to come up with or use motion sensitive controllers. Nintendo's Wii was the first to successfully incorporate motion sensitive controllers into all of its games.

Wii's motion sensitive controllers are the reason why Sony and Microsoft have had to reduce their console prices. If Microsoft and Sony want to compete then they will have to find a way to mimic Nintendo's success with the Wii controllers.

It is too late to incorporate something like the 3DV for the current generation of XBox and PS games. The current XBox and PS3 games are not made with motion sensitive controls in mind and the device would be little more than a gimmick.

All console manufacturers will need some kind of motion sensitive controller in order to compete with the next generation of consoles. It makes perfect sense that a console manufacturer might license 3DV technology for their next generation console and, like Nintendo's Wii, make it the primary control interface.

There is a huge difference between playing a console game that was designed to be played with a standard controller and one that was designed to be played with a motion sensitive controller. Dance Dance Revolution is a perfect example of how motion sensitive controllers can improve game play. You could play DDR with a standard, hand-held controller but DDR is clearly meant to be played with (and is arguably more fun to play when using) a dance pad.

All you have to do is play a few Wii games to understand why the future game consoles will need some kind of motion sensitive controller in order to be successful.
Posted by Fat Drunk and Stupid (32 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Does anyone else remember...
that circle controller thing that laid on the ground and you stood in the center? It was suppose to let you control games through body movement: you punched, the character punch; you kicked, the character kicked? That had to have been about 15 years ago that I saw it advertised in gaming magazines.
Posted by aka_tripleB (2211 comments )
Link Flag
Similar to edusim3d.com in schools !
this is great stuff !


======
Posted by GreenbushLabs (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I saw a new virtual walk game controller on YouTube that lets you walk to play. It was really simple and worked with PC, Xbox, Wii and PS2/3 and existing games. As the article say, a controller must have games to catch on. They had a demo of the controller with Second Life and Halo.

Pretty slick how they made an inexpensive and simple controller that actually simulates walking.
And the idea of exercising while playing appeals to a wider range of people. Look at the Wii and games like DDR. Moving your body is fun. This controller will work for DDR as well as walking games. I bet there are a bunch of new gaming idea with the right controller. Wii has already proved that.

The company was asking customer to register at their site to get the first batch of 5,000 controllers made. Pretty interesting business model and a cool controller.
Posted by solvtech (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
It's really interesting to see how Nintendo tries to exploit to the maximum extent the idea of "hand control" - as opposite to "finger control" that we see in all other consoles, as well as in PC. Now even the "simple" motion of hand immediately translates into "virtual" events. But it looks like Nintendo lost the major "differentiation" of Wii: fun of exercising. Motions of hand aren't exercises anymore - except the people who need to restore the hand motion after trauma.
I think combining this "hand" control with walking control mentioned by solvtech would return Wii on "exergaming" track. I know that hardcore gamers disagree with me - from their standpoint, gesture of hand might be even better way to play the games than running fingers across the keyboard. This is just my personal opinion.
Posted by Kapraz (1 comment )
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Posted by zhangzhuanting (1 comment )
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