2011/01/22

The future of motion-controlled gaming


Scott Steinberg is the head of technology and video game consulting firm TechSavvy Global, as well as the founder of GameExec magazine and Game Industry TV. The creator and host of online video series Game Theory, he frequently appears as an on-air technology analyst for ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CNN.
(FunneR) -- Proving that the Wii's motion-sensing controls weren't a fad, both Sony's PlayStation Move and Microsoft's Kinect had strong holiday seasons, suggesting a growing appetite for active video games.
Sony and Microsoft sold more than 4.1 million and 8 million units over the holidays, respectively, on the strength of titles like "Sports Champions" and "Dance Central."
And as a host of new compatible offerings illustrate, both these and other manufacturers hope to further expand the market for gesture-tracking gaming systems throughout 2011 and beyond.
Here's a look at what's coming in the months ahead.
PlayStation Move
Like the Wii, the Move system features a wand-like controller that gamers wave about to control their avatars onscreen.
Angling to entice hard-core players as well as casual game enthusiasts, Sony's upcoming 3D TV-enabled sci-fi shooter "Killzone 3" and military-themed blaster "SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs" both will feature PlayStation Move support.
Each offers more intuitive aiming through physical gestures, and looks to make a case for how well this new tech can integrate with more die-hard gameplay experiences.
Titles with a more mainstream focus like "MLB 11: The Show" (batting), "PlayStation Move Heroes" (arcade mini-games), "LittleBigPlanet 2" (platform hopping) and "Sorcery" (spell casting via a plastic wand) are also planned.
And nearly 50 titles in all genres, from adventure to sports to downloadable PlayStation Network games and third-party outings such as "Time Crisis: Razing Storm," are now available for the Move.
Kinect
Microsoft's hit system, which uses cameras to read players' full-body movements and translate them into action or sports games, will extend its immediate focus to a range of social applications.
Announced at CES, the company's new Kinect Avatar serviceutilizes the hands-free controller to allow real-time mapping of facial movements onto a digital character. When you raise your eyebrow, so does your avatar.
Up to eight virtual avatars, all reflecting their users' actual facial expressions, can hang out in virtual chat rooms -- including performance stages and other imaginative environments -- via Xbox Live. You can even record videos of their conversations.
The Kinect also will feature such motion-controlled entertainment options as casual videoconferencing and, come spring, the ability to use hand gestures and voice commands to enjoy streaming video from Netflix and Hulu Plus.
New upcoming titles for the Kinect, which cover a range of interests and play styles, include psychedelic shooter "Child of Eden," automotive epic "Forza Motorsport 4" and the humorous trivia game "You Don't Know Jack."
Tablets, PCs and handheld 3-D
New gyroscope-equipped tablet PCs such as Motorola's Xoom, Acer's new Android slate and Apple's rumored iPad 2 also promise potential new ways to bring motion controls to handheld gaming. Expect more titles that, like some popular iPhone games, let you tilt to steer on-screen vehicles, pilot dogfighting planes or aim virtual cross hairs.
Motion controls manufacturer Softkinetic also plans to offer controller-free games shortly through its proprietary "iisu" 3-D gesture-recognition technology.
PC gamers can soon enjoy motion control capability outside of racing chairs and plastic putting simulators. Sixense's Hydra controller, which uses a magnetic field to detect your movements, is due in April, packaged with the popular puzzle game "Portal 2."
The Nintendo 3DS, a handheld gaming system capable of producing three-dimensional special effects without the need for special glasses, will include touchscreen controls and dozens of custom games when it arrives March 27.
From touch-sensing Android smartphones to gesture-tracking TV remotes and accessories like Nyko's Power Shot, which transforms the PlayStation Move into a plastic rifle, motion controls will be everywhere in 2011.
What's next for these technologies appears to be a broader range of everyday uses that more inventively tap into the power of your own body -- the most intuitive controller of all.

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