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| The Novint Falcon: 3D Tactile-feedback Input (4 comments )|
by: Kristopher (5) | Posted in cluster Editors Challenge Sponsored by Intel Round 2
Posted 75 months ago ( edited 75 months ago ) in category DEFAULT
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to get a first look at the Novint Falcon; the first three-dimensional tactile-feedback input device.
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The Novint Falcon input device
My hands on with the Novit Falcon
The device packs a bit of a punch for its size
There are two operations that make the Falcon unique – true three-dimensional interaction and the force feedback. 3D manipulation can be achieved with other devices on the market; namely optical pointers and free floating mice. What sets the Falcon apart from these other devices is the fact that it can also provide tactile feedback, a task still in its infancy on 2D pointers like mice.
Tactile feedback, in its essence, is the process of relaying the “feel” of what’s on the screen back to the user. In one demo, I had the opportunity to control a catcher’s mitt in a mini-game. The object of the game was to catch the ball with the mitt, but when you do the Falcon knocks back … it almost stings!
The Novint Falcon is currently on pre-order for $189, but will make an appearance at Best Buy for $239 on June 18, 2007.
So how does the Falcon stack up? Unfortunately the Falcon is a tale of two trials: the hardware and the software.
There is no question the Falcon excels at what it does with respect to hardware. Being the first of its kind means it’s pretty easy to be the best-of-breed, but even then our experience surpassed expectations. When manipulating orbs of glass using the Falcon, the controller really had the feel and feedback of glass-on-glass. Sandpaper had the bumps and grit of sandpaper. Molasses had the sticky, sloppy feel of … well, molasses.
One of the aspects of the Falcon that impressed me the most was the fact that such a small device could really produce such a punch. Attempting to move your icon through a wall in Haptics, for example, results in the device pushing back – with force. That’s the whole objective of tactile-feedback. If you can’t move through a wall, the tracker won’t budge. The device is incredibly sturdy and durable; I never had the impression that I could break the test unit, even given the amount of force I was putting into it.
The software is where Novint and developers will need to concentrate their efforts. Our demo with the Falcon included several mini-games, but ultimately the flagship software for the game is Half-Life 2; specifically the Haptics-Life mod.
Half-Life 2 is not bundled with the Falcon. A driver for Half-Life 2 comes with the device instead, and we are promised other Source Engine titles will also receive the same treatment. At the time of our demonstration, we really did get the kick-back from the shotgun. Running through barrels forced the Falcon to buck wildly, much as if we were climbing over debris.
The only title developed specifically with Novint technology in mind is Newton’s Money Business, included with the game bundle. Monkey Business is essentially a series of mini-games stitched together. You can play a few games of bowling, ping-pong and fish, but none of the Monkey Business games will win any awards in the near future as they are just technology demonstrators for the platform.
There’s no mistake, these games demonstrate what the Falcon does well -- it’s just that they are not particularly interesting. Throwing down nearly $200 for a few beer and pretzel games, though novel, doesn't make sense.
With many respects, I felt much the same way I did the first time I loaded up Wii Sports. Sure I can punch someone’s Mii in the face, but what do you do after 20 minutes of that?
The fact is Novint needs more than Half-Life 2 to warrant a purchase for gamers. Don’t get me wrong, if your first child is named Gordon Freeman and you occasionally have hallucinations of Vortigaunt janitors assisting you with your day-to-day activities that include overthrowing an alien race, then you should probably pick up a Falcon on your way to the psychiatrist.
If Novint can pick up support from other engines, such as Unreal Engine 3, it would be much easier to justify a pre-order or eventual purchase. The Source engine is a major win with regard to support – Team Fortress 2 is one of the most anticipated FPS games this year. However, there are too many other games that could benefit from this technology and none have announced support for Novint just yet.
The Novint Falcon, or a technology very similar to it, will revolutionize gaming some day. Modern games immerse our sense of sight and sound, yet the sense of touch is completely ignored by modern developers outside of Novint.
|4 User Comment(s) • 2 root comment(s)|
| suibhne (65) Mar 15, 2007 - 01:45 pm | Edited on Mar 15, 2007 - 01:46 pm|
|When it comes to games like TF2, I wonder whether the Falcon wouldn't be a disadvantage. In competitive online gaming, it pays to strip out anything extraneous; people alter their .ini files to remove ambient sounds and even their own footsteps, and I have a hard time believing they'd put up with an input device that got in their way for the sake of realism. In single-player games, on the other hand, I can see this being pretty interesting.|
Your write-up raised a lot of questions for me. Most of them are for the future, but there is one I wish you'd answered: how exactly does it work? :)
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| Kristopher (5) Mar 15, 2007 - 03:59 pm|
|Well, unfortunately there's a lot of hush-hush about the specifics; I think that's just because there's no shipping product. |
From what I could gather, it seems that the Source engine allows for texture parameters on objects for rendering purposes. For a tactile input device, the only major hurdle is mapping those textures to the actuators inside the Falcon.
With regard to your comment on realism: I think this is becoming more prevalent in gaming. Yeah in competitive gaming, you have people doing odd things like strip out the sounds, but you also have competitive gamers that utilize the audio extensively -- tree branches cracking indicate someone is sneaking up behind me.
In addition, AGEIA has put a lot of work into making physics processing an advantage in UE3. For example, cloth deformations visible due to the PhysX engine reveal greater detail behind canvas trucks, for example.
Over all, while I think gamers tend to strip things out of games, like level of detail, I think as the decade begins to close you're going to find games and gamers go the opposite direction.
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