CES Hardware Round Up – Two
The Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas is a showcase of the latest and greatest in consumer electronics. Some years, there's not so much neat stuff for PC gamers, some years there is. My first stops are always the Pepcom Digital Experience and the ShowStoppers media events which frankly are valuable in that I don't have to traverse the depth and breath of the Las Vegas Convention Center in hunt for cool new gadgets to share with our readers here at mmorpg.com.
You can read part one of this article, here.
There’s gaming peripherals and there’s gaming peripherals but where some of these guys are going is pretty much pushing the envelope.
The Peregrine Glove is eons ahead of the old Nintendo Power Glove. Remember that? It was imprecise and clunky. Not so the Peregrine. Flexible, breathable, washable, it fits your hand… well, like a glove! With over 30 touchpoints and a simple intuitive program to calibrate it, I watched a developer play League of Legends with it and tried it out myself. You can’t make false actions by accidentally touching the contact points on a table as the actions are based on closing circuits, i.e. you connect a touchpoint to an activator pad. Targeted toward MMO players, each touchpoint can be mapped to a skill, key or macro. You can use your mouse with your right hand, and with the glove, could be hurling a fireball by touching thumb and fore finger, a lightning bolt with thumb and fourth finger and tapping your palm for an AE spell. Currently only available for the left hand, it has a price point of $149.99, is made to military specs (although they wouldn’t say why), and is shipping in the first quarter of 2010.
Turtle Beach pledged that unlike some other peripheral manufacturers, they have not abandoned their PC customers. Far from it, I was assured as I was shown their PC gaming products. Their higher end model, the comfortable HPA2 at a price point of $99.95 isn’t new, but is a multi-speaker 5.1 surround sound headset has an integrated amplifier, removable mic and a quick disconnect jack for the quick runs for more soda without having to disentangle yourself from the headset. What they were actively demoing was their latest value headset, the Z1. A lightweight, compact stereo headset with soft ear cushions with some noise-reduction foam. It folds conveniently into a small portable form-factor and while not the multi-speaker cool dude like its big brother, it can’t be faulted at $29.95.
Tritton’s latest and greatest is the AX720, a precision gaming headset optimized for the Xbox 360, PS3 as well as PC/Mac. This headset didn’t just have the goods, it had the bling as well. With 5.1 Dolby Digital sound technology, this headset is skinnable with Tritton selling skins that range from skulls to pink flowery camouflage (no kidding). It has an external amplifier which controls each of the four speakers’ sound fields independently, removable microphone independent chat volume control and breakaway cord design, it can also be used for Hi-Fi audio. Earpads and head rail pads are also replaceable and easily switched out. The AX720 ships with two different earpads for the player’s comfort and is priced at $129.
Dennis “zDD” Dozier, the #1 ranked PS3 C.O.D. player was on hand at Splitfish to show off their latest and greatest in game controllers, the Dual SFX Evolution, a pair of wireless controllers with full 6-axis control in both grips and the FragPro which combines a mouse and a 6-axis controller. So they are made for consoles, but with a bit of ingenuity, we know we can use them on our PCs for MMO gaming. Every button is programmable, customizable and even better, you can assign macros to them. Macro set up is remarkably simple. Press the macro button, assign the button you want it set up at, press the keys you want (up to 12) and press the macro button again. Cheating? Against EULA? It’s up to the gamer to decide. Just don’t be crying if a friend brings one of these things for a bit of competitive play of Street Fighter or Tekken when you are still using the original controller. The only quibble I have with the controllers is the feel. The fit and finish isn’t as slick as they could be, but at a price point of $90 for either the FragPro or the Evo, I’ll live with the “plastiky” feel.
Razer wasn’t showing off a gaming mouse this CES, but their latest project, a collaboration with Sixense Entertainment to develop a motion sensing, gesture recognition controller for the PC. Utilizing magnetic tracking, there was no requirement for line of sight for the controls. A developer showed me how the interaction of two hand-held controllers with a modeling program (Maya), using a pair of swords as cursors. Working together with Valve, they demonstrated the use of a prototype with Left for Dead 2. Even at this stage, the demos were impressive. Indeed, getting near the Left for Dead 2 demo was not easy. As it was a prototype, no images were released. Other products shown were their ventures into console controllers. Their latest mouse, the Imperator was actually released in November and is a further improvement on their excellent line of gaming mice, with a 5600dpi Razer Precision™ 3.5G laser sensor, onboard memory and adjustable side buttons, apart from their ergonomic design and great feel.
Now for the “something different” category:
Click Free has an easy solution for data backup. Plug in their gizmo and it analyzes your hard drive, finds your data and backs it up for you. They have backup drives, portable drives and SD cards to name a few and all you have to do is plug them in to all your computers and your data will be backed up, neatly filed away. Then there are their line of backup adapters they call Transfomers. Which can back up your data onto any free space on a USB hard drive, iPod / iPhone and even burn files to CD or DVDs.
I could not let the Entourage Edge slip by without a mention either. Displayed at the E-book reader pavilion, it is more that that. They called it a "dualbook" and combines the functions of an e-reader, netbook, notepad, and audio/video recorder and player in one lightweight package. The e-book side has a 1200 x 825 (9.7") screen with e-ink and e-paper Wacom writing pad. The netbook side has a 1024 x 600 (10.1") LCD, touch screen display, running Linux with Google Android at a price point of $490. Tempting. Very tempting.
Last but not least, there was Immerz's KOR-fx gizmo. It looked like a combination skeleton vest and head phones for your chest and was created for full sensory immersion in gaming. Invented by CEO/CTO Shahriar Afshar, a ground-breaking experimental quantum physicist, it makes use of the principles of neural science. How the thing works is that it makes use of game audio to excite the drivers built into them which in turn vibrates and excites your chest cavity. Just like how your vocal cords and chest vibrates when you speak. It didn't seem like much when I watched a bit of a movie with them on although I did feel the T-Rex in Jurassic Park - you know, when the kid asks, "Do you feel that?" I did. I wasn't convinced and told Shahriar so.
What's a bit of vibration do for me? To prove his invention, he took out his laptop and fired up Halo. Once in the game, I was surprised to find that it was actually directional. I could hear and feel the drop ship fly over head without seeing it. I spent way too much time talking to Shahriar about the KOR-fx as the effects of sound and music on game immersion is a topic near and dear to my heart. Low frequency sounds such as the lowest pedal on a pipe organ at 16Hz can be felt but not heard, and evokes an emotional response in us and I think that Immerz has got something in this KOR-fx gizmo. This is a piece of hardware I hope to be able to review for our readers here. At a price point of $190, it's not cheap but from the little that I experienced, it's killer.