FiringSquad: First how did Novint come to be formed?
Controlling PC games has almost always involved using a mouse and keyboard. Some companies have tried to create PC-specific controllers (remember the Fragmaster and SpaceOrb 360?) while others have tried to improve the mouse and/or the keyboard. Now a company called Novint is developing a unique PC game controller called the Falcon that they claim will add something that has never really been tried before; simulated touch. FiringSquad got a chance to ask some questions to Novint's Vice President of Marketing Antonia Chappell to find out more about their plans for the Falcon.
Tom Anderson, our President and CEO was working at Sandia National Laboratories, leading their development of some of the first 3D touch applications in the world. Tom recognized the tremendous commercial potential for the technology Sandia was working on and, in 2000, started Novint, securing an unprecedented, exclusive license to over five years of the labís ground-breaking research.
FiringSquad: How did the idea for the Falcon come about?
Novintís vision has always been to create a new category of touch products for the consumer market, but the price of 3D touch hardware has been a significant gating factor. Commercial haptic devices cost thousands of dollars and we knew that to create something compelling for consumers we would need to overcome this issue. The Novint Falcon emerged from our desire to build a device that would eliminate the price barrier without sacrificing performance, and from the ongoing efforts of our team.
FiringSquad: There have been tons of PC controllers for games but none have really taken the place of the mouse and keyboard combo. Why do you think the Falcon will be different?
First and foremost, the Falcon adds high-fidelity 3D touch to gaming, allowing players to feel weight, dimension, texture, dynamics, and force feedback from their interactions. It also overcomes the limitations of the mouse and keyboard, providing players with three degrees of freedom: left-right, forward-backward, and up and down. This means that a player can control a game more naturally and intuitively Ė feeling a characterís actions instead of controlling a game through mouse-clicks or button pushing. Consider your life without a sense of touch. To date, games have utilized increasingly sophisticated graphics and sound design, but none have incorporated realistic interactive 3D touch...until now. We believe the introduction of 3D touch will fundamentally change gaming. As an example, think back to the early nineties when games were predominantly 2D side-scrollers. After 3D graphics were introduced, within a relatively short time, the majority of games transitioned to 3D graphics. We believe our technology represents a similar innovation.
FiringSquad: How difficult was it to develop a controller that would allow people to feel like they are touching things on screen?
This has been an incredible effort that has involved the talent and effort of many people over the last several years. Our engineering team, lead by our CTO, Walter Aviles, and our hardware group, lead by General Manager, Jack Harrod, were challenged not only to develop a low-cost device that performed comparably to expensive commercial controllers, but also had to address many other issues that are inherent in the development of consumer products, such as the robustness needed for a gaming product. As a start-up company, Novint has relied on the dedicated efforts of a small core team and has worked closely with our partners Force Dimension and Lunar Design to deliver the first 3D touch controller that will break the price barrier and be accessible to consumers.