We take a look at an interesting project to bring realistic weaponry aesthetics to motion controllers. The ‘Crossfire’ VR motion controller.
Control: VRs Missing Link
The year of VR continues to rumble on like an unstoppable juggernaut. Just in the first quarter we’ve seen more important leaps
towards consumer virtual reality than in the last couple of decades. Most of the momentum is being seen in the display segment, which is expected. A great VR Headset is what you need to present the virtual world to you convincingly enough to fool your brain.
However, if there’s one thing that Sony’s Project Morpheus demos at GDC this year showed us, it’s that input can be as important as the display technology your wearing. The now ageing Move controller, ahead of it’s time upon it’s release in 2010, has now finally found it’s place alongside Sony’s VR Headset and proved that good input sells a virtual experience.
Oculus themselves know this all too well and its clear Sony have at least one answer to the question of VR input. But there’s a yawning gap waiting to be bridged. Companies like Sixense and Tactical Haptics can see the opportunity and are working hard to meet the requirements, but there’s enormous opportunities for those out there who come up with solutions to this problem.
Enter Dante Buckley, a 17 year old student from North Carolina who’s working hard trying to provide not one, but two solutions of his own. Two controllers which seek to absorb the player into the virtual
world with intuitive and realistic form factors and great positional tracking. I dare say that if you gave most FPS fans the opportunity to feel as if that digital M4 Rifle they see in the game world is right there in their hands they’d jump at the chance.
Dante has two distinct controllers under development. The first, a replica of the classic M4 rifle, integrates buttons, two analogue joysticks, haptic feedback, a trigger and, somewhat uniquely, a removable ammunition clip that senses when you eject and replace for even more realism. Unlike your average M4 however, are 3 internally illuminated ping-pong balls mounted atop the – these are the key to the unit’s optical position and orient ion tracking. Dante’s nicknamed this ‘The Crossfire.
The second is a more conventional two-button controller with a single analogue joystick, an analogue trigger and haptic feedback. Again, the differentiator is the 3 point tracker ping-pong balls. These reference points are what gives the unit it’s nickname, ‘Hammerhead’.
Both controllers are Bluetooth enabled with 9DOF integrated trackers, used for tracking rotation and acceleration. Optical tracking is enabled by a fast webcam which senses the pink glowing orbs on the controllers. Range is around 10M and although Dante has not yet measure input latency, he describes is as “Pretty Low”.
So how long did it take to developer Crossfire and Hammerhead? “I’ve been prototyping a variety of Virtual Reality prototypes for about 9 months”, Dante tells us “But the hammerhead controllers have been under development for about 2 months and my crossfire gun for 6 months.” Pretty impressive for a 17 year old one man band.
Dante recently took to YouTube to finally show off the products of his hard work to the VR community at large, garnering much interest. His latest video gives a peek at his latest progress as well as demonstrations of his controller in use whilst gaming.
By Dante’s own admission, the tracking isn’t quite ‘there’ yet, but it clearly does work and gives you a great idea of how effective playing games with realistic feeling controller might add to a great VR experience. An impressive start certainly.
A Question of Funding
So, the now obligatory question, will Dante consider taking his prototypes to Kickstarter to further progress and hopefully accelerate their development? “Yes sir, kickstarter seems to be the place to go when you have a virtual reality product and need funding. Once my development has been finalized( which will be very soon) I will start my kickstarter. Right now I’m a one man team, but soon I’d like to have a great group of individuals to help me further my vision with these products and soon Game development.”
We look forward to seeing what Dante makes of his project and will keep an eye on the Hammerhead and Crossfire’s progress. Meanwhile, check out Dante’s YouTube channel.