Motion sensors have been a major part of the gaming industry for a while now. Ever since the Nintendo Wii was first revealed all those years ago developers have been clambering over each other to implement motion controls into their games – even more so when it became so successful. Since then we’ve seen Microsoft attempt to go controller-free with its Kinect device and Sony's weighed in with its wand-like Move controller, but it’s the latest innovation from Nintendo that currently has developers brainstorming new ideas.
That innovation is, of course, the Wii U GamePad, Nintendo’s new controller that blends motion sensors, classic button controls and tablet-stye gaming together in one neat little package. The technology behind it is certainly innovative as well, and is similar to what we’re now seeing in smartphone devices like the iPhone 5 – only it’s on a much larger scale.
A gyroscope and accelerometer will only allow for six-axis controls, something we’ve seen with the Playstation 3 controller, but while the GamePad obviously has these it also has a geomagnetic sensor built in, allowing it to have not just six-axis but nine-axis motion controls.
Becky Oh, chief executive of PNI Sensor Corporation, the company behind the GamePad’s geomagnetic sensor, has spoken in an interview with GamesBeat about how the technology improves the accuracy and reliability of the GamePad.
[The gyro and accelerometer] are good at tracking relativistic change. But it doesn’t tell you absolutely where you’re pointing and where the pointer is. What the magnetic sensor does is use the Earth’s magnetic field as a reference. It can always guide [the GamePad] back to what the absolute position is.
Oh believes the new geomagnetic technology will allow the failings of six-axis devices — such as the Wii Remote — to be eradicated, saying she thinks several genres of games can now be played much more responsively.
I think games such as first-person shooters, driving games, or some type of flying game would be a good candidate for this type of technology. Sony’s Sharpshooter [Move peripheral] did something like this, but when we played with it we saw it was not accurately tracking. There was both latency and inaccuracy. In that case, hardcore gamers would go back to using a joystick or game controllers, but if you had a very accurate way — with no latency or very little latency — to use the gun to point what you’re shooting. I think that does change the way the game is played.
It seems that this new technology could well become the norm very soon. Accuracy is a persistent criticism aimed at motion controlled gaming, so this new nine-axis control method could well be a step towards making it much more reliable.
Naturally the now inferior Wii Remotes still work with Wii U, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see Nintendo bring out a new version of the device allowing for more accurate nine-axis controls. A new Wii Motion Plus Plus Remote, perhaps.
What are your thoughts on this technology? Is motion controlled gaming going to dominate the future or will there always be games that will require a regular GamePad such as the Pro Controller? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.