News Article

Wii U GamePad Offers Nine-Axis Controls

Posted by Andy Green

Utilises the earth’s magnetic pull

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.


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User Comments (51)



SaKo said:

What exactly DOES it do though? Like, how does it use the magnetic pull? I'm still confused.



b_willers said:

It worked really well in the panorama demo, or whatever they were calling it at Eurogamer expo. Hope they release these 'demos' on the eshop, but I guess the files would be pretty huge.



b_willers said:

Surely it's only 8-axis at best, the earth doesn't have a magnetic field radiating from the center so the GamePad won't be detecting relative altitude?



Jackrov said:

Sometimes you had to press down on the d-pad while aiming at the screen.
This was a concern in many reviews!
Well, when you pressed down on the d-pad while aiming at the screen, you did reset the relative orientation of the motion controls.

No more need for that!

The magnetic control takes care of that for you.



SMW said:

I remember something like this being leaked a while ago. I'm glad it turned out to be true! The Wii U is out and we are STILL learning about how it all works. Amazing!



Ainze said:

Still 9 axis. The magnetic sensors don't tell you where on Earth the Gamepad is, but they do tell the Gamepad what direction it is facing relative to magnetic North. If you've ever used a 3D compass app on a smartphone, you'll see a complete spherical motion tracking (i.e. tracking all 3 axes).

Exactly my thoughts. No more pointing at the sensor bar to recalibrate. How many boss fights went screwy because of that?



sillygostly said:

Well, this changes everything. I was thinking of ditching all of my old Wii Remotes in favour of Wii Remote Pluses, but I think I'll now wait for the inevitable 9-axis remotes to be released.

Do any of the launch titles even bother to take advantage of the Wii Remote Plus?



Moshugan said:

I don't quite understand. They talked how it improves upon the Wii remotes, but does it improve on Wii Remoter Pluses? They're pretty accurate as it is. What's the technological difference between original remotes and the pluses?
I'd hate having to buy new motes yet again!



snax007 said:

There is only 3 axis for any object in a in a 3D world. Talking about 9 axis is nonsense.



TheRegginator said:

Now if only the WM+ had a geomagnetic sensor in it. The gyroscope definitely improved it, but having to recalibrate constantly was annoying.



3dbrains said:

"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"

That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. Sony's PS3 controller has x2 accelerometers. Both of them use the same 3 axis. Sony decided because their are two of them, to call it sixaxis so all the sony fanboys could claim superiority. In fact there are two because one on its own (the type sony used) would not be accurate enough (and still isn't accurate with x2)

Accelerometers detect acceleration (speeding up and slowing down) The wii remote uses this information to detect tilt(using gravitational changes), and single direction acceleration, and gestures using this are transmitted using Livemove.

Gyroscopes detect circular motion only. The Wii remote uses this to determin if the remote is moving in a circle or not. Zero point must be set by the user pressing a button. In combination with the accelerometers it can accurately replicate movement in 3D.(so it can stop when you stop and move exactly as you move) but the zero point must be recallibrated by the user.

Magnetometers sense magnetic north. In the WiiU it uses it so if your house(or playing direction) faces East, the pad knows that '0' position is east and uses it to calibrate for you. Combined with the gyroscope and accelerometers the Gamepad for WiiU will be extremely accurate.

Still only using the only 3 axis available to a object.

lets pretend it's 9axis, because being dumb is fun, right?



WaxxyOne said:

The Wii Remote Plus or a Motion+ accessory is required to play the Zelda minigame with more than one player in Nintendo Land. I do not know which of the other games require it (Super Mario Bros. U does not) because it doesn't inform you of this until you activate the Wiimote to play.

Personally, I'm happy that Nintendo is pushing more towards needing the Plus because that will hopefully mean 3rd parties won't be afraid to require it, thus being able to code directly for its enhanced features. I would be surprised if they added yet another accessory that just adds a few more motion sensors, but who knows? Maybe people with a classic Wiimote can plug another adapter into their Motion+ and have an 11-inch super Wiimote!



Ainze said:

The Gamepad doesn't register only it's spacial position in 9 dimensions, it registers ALL of its properties. Just like a Aeroplane with altitude, longitude, latitude, roll, pitch, yaw, and a 3D vector velocity (or if you're really nerdy, you could consider the myriad of quantum numbers needed to describe a particle). There is lots of information needed to fully describe an object's position and movements in space, and all the different axes are different and independent. If it wasn't the case, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between Wii Remote and Remote Plus.

So yay for 9 (real) axes. And frankly, here's for even more in the future, making gaming even more realistic.



SCAR said:

It does make sense, but I'm sure that the sensor bar will play a role still anyway. The 3 extra axis' are x,y, and z in space, besides the original 6 that only track movement and not overall placement of where it should be. That's why I think the sensor bar will still play a role, for pointing at the screen, but never having calibrating issues when moving it out of sync of movements it meant to track. I've already had some issues with using the gamepad,and moving it pretty crazily in the F-Zero Twister Race in Nintendo Land. If I move it too crazy, it will think slightly to the right is the new forward, trying to calibrate where your facing in real time with some lag obviously, so I don't think it's been implemented yet, seeing as it was probably added late in development, and many games were already finished or close to it. It is a needed function, and Skyward Sword, and now Nintendo Land prove it. Also, I know there is calibrating in the Ninja Nintendo Land game by pointing up to fix pointing accuracy, so the best version of this being applied as of now, is the gamepad at a 90 degree angle pointing directly downward/upward, which is probably because the game pad doesn't point at the sensor bar for pointing. There does need to be a way for the gamepad to sense where the TV is though, so that is why I think it is still needed besides Wii remotes.



SCAR said:

If they do make a Wii U Motion ×, than it will probably incude the older Motion +, as well as Motion × to ensure for people using regular Wii remotes, not having a crazy extented controller like you say, then make it just Wii U remote after everyone has updated their current Wii remotes with the said attachment. I still have 3 motion plus attachment for my 3 regular remotes, so now everyone with Wii Motion + bult in their remotes will feel my pain. Ha... haha... hahahahaha.! Just kidding. It's just the way technology works though...



SCAR said:

As an assurance that if they do make an attatchment for ALL Wii remotes, it will because it would be harder to still count the built in Wii motion plus, with an extra 3 axis', in 2 different locations.



SCAR said:

Or they could just call it the U attachment, and have a blue U on the front to ensure people don't get mixed up, as long as they advertise that the new functionality is for only Wii U, and it could even revive older Wii remotes, granted it has Motion plus inside that is still usable for games that use only that.



SCAR said:

Well, they are for sure starting to Wii remotes, even in new Wii U games. You can use a Wii remote and nunchuck for COD: BO 2. Whether it uses Motion + or not, I don't know. Probably, but I haven't tried it yet. Classic Controllers can be used, too.



Assassinated said:

@SCAR392 I'm almost certain Skyward Sword does not use the sensor bar at all. The Wii motion plus works differently somehow to track the motion. I was able to center the cursor while the remote was pointed at the ground, and play perfectly from that position, moving in the relative direction indicated by the screen, adjusted to the new center. You could cover the front of the remote, and not affect gameplay. This seems to indicate that the sensor bar was not utilized at all. That was why it needed calibration so often, there was no fixed reference point.



Shworange said:

...wait a minute! What if the earth undergoes a polar reversal! Assuming we have a power grid left to power our Wii U's, would I have to play my gamepad upside down! They should have taken this into account! I bet Nintendo was counting on a polar reversal so that we'd have to buy all new gamepads! Greedy Nintendo!!!



SCAR said:

That's exactly what I said. Haha. That's why I think it will be used in the future, besides just a controller and no sensor bar use like Skyward Sword. I've played it, and was confused as hell when my Wii remote wasn't showing up on screen, even though I was pointing right at the screen.



NintyMan said:

I can see that, since I was surprised to see all the different directions the GamePad could take while I was playing Metroid Blast in Nintendo Land. This would make things like a panorama view possible. We'll see how many developers use this natural way to play.



Araknie said:

This makes it so you can really explore that feature now.

I see now that this is how they wanted the Wiimote to do and they never abandoned that idea. Stronk Nintendo is stronk.



SCAR said:

Well I don't think a polar reversal will effect technology. I think only living things are effected by polarization, or reverse polarization, since we actually have all these sensors built into us without needing a motion plus/motion plus plus/× accessory.



SCAR said:

Nintendo probably didn't have the funds, or the tech to even do it back then. Buying Wii made playing video games more realistic no matter what your argument against it is. Soon technology will mimic space and movement within it, so now there is no escape. Ha... haha... hahaha...hahahahahaha. Just kidding, and sorry, I'm just trying to play the crazy villain that does crazy stuff. Haha.



Chunky_Droid said:

I'm a little confused about all this motion technology, lol.

I hope the final version of Nintendo Land does what Becky says the GamePad does. I found when I was throwing ninja stars, my Gamepad was a little off after a while and I had to reset my aiming reticule. Technically if this geomagnetic sensor should prevent this happening... right?



SCAR said:

Like I said in an above post, it probably was added late in development so it wasn't added. In a worst case scenario, it probably wasn't even able to be used because of lack of knowledge how to use it.



triforcepower73 said:

I think there's enough room in the future of gaming to hold both traditional and motion controls. After all, they've hardly been around for very long and can always improve.



SCAR said:

Real physics engines being used in games probably caused these advancements as a side note, opposed to 'waggle' controls that trigger an animation with inaccurate calibration.



rjejr said:

They should call a new Wiimote the "New Wiimote" after Apple's iPad 3 and 4 and also the 4 "New Super Mario Bros" games (1, Wii, 2, and U).



WanderingPB said:

@AmishThunder that was a good one!!!!

Reminds me of what Reggie said a few days ago in an interview with cnet about Sony and Microsoft "our competitors need to react to what we're doing"



Shworange said:

Compasses would point incorrectly, and flights that use the magnetic field as a guide would be thrown drastically off. Also, can you prove that the magic that Nintendo puts into each console doesn't technically render it "alive"!



Tsuchiya said:

So it looks like a lot of people will be playing with the curtains drawn again.



Marioman64 said:

now make a nine-axis version of skyward sword so i can kill those annoying three-headed enemies that laugh at me while I try to do a perfect diagonal slice



aaronsullivan said:

I wondered why the GamePad seemed so much better at this stuff. Very cool.

I just wish there was a way to get this into all Wii Remotes ASAP.

Skyward Sword does use the Sensor Bar to help tell what direction the Wii Remote is going. It helps it from drifting off course. You can still play without it, however.



DerpSandwich said:

The Gamepad controls really well, but it still gets a little off when I'm playing F-Zero. I don't think they'll release new controllers this generation, though. Some of us are already having a hard enough time getting enough Wii Motion Pluses/Wii Remote Pluses, and that's AFTER already buying a bunch of regular Wii remotes that never really got used. If I got my hands on enough Pluses to finally play Metroid Blast in all its glory and there was some slightly better remote to get that worked with the newer games, I'd be a little upset.



DaveGX said:

I'm actually rather confused as to just exactly how there can be 9-axis because figure this; A cube only has 6 sides. Now put a sphere inside that or the cube inside a sphere and really, the axis' or angles or whatever still really can't expand much further beyond that.... I dunno maybe that's just what exactly I'm failing to comprehend that the new tech, a geomagnetic sensor could add or expand upon. Although this definitely sounds similar to an update I read about this HMD (head-mounted display) started on KickStarter and still being developed called Oculus Rift, whereas the claim is they're adding their own magnetometer (yet another piece I'm still notmuch familiar with at all) "which opens new doors in terms of sensor data and head-tracking".

I would definitely have to agree, though, is that new controllers supporting it would have to be made. Though as far as accuracy and response time goes, i've always felt this setback was on the sensor bar itself vs Sony's PlayStation Eye because well, maybe it's just me, but isn't infrared (becoming) rather dated? Besides, wouldn't you rather a device with the clearest/most accurate perception possible?



SCAR said:

Haha. Ya, it's called technology. Besides, airplane(flights?), are already inverted usually, so whats the difference? It's like if the world just decided to turn the other direction or any other direction, which in outer space definitions, isn't set at clockwise, counter-clockwise, north, south, east, or west. It's just whatever kinda.



StarDust4Ever said:

I have a giant neodymium magnet with 200 pounds of force. Well, not really giant, more like 2x2x1 inches. I'll throw that puppy around on the floor to make the gamepad go berserk. It's stong enough to disrupt any compass within a 20 foot radius. Make it think I'm sitting on one of the Earth's magnetic poles...



aaronsullivan said:

It's interesting that new Wii Remotes could come with this feature without making the old ones useless in new games. For instance, in the next Zelda game, people with only the current Motion Plus controllers would still have to calibrate occasionally and point at the screen for some tasks and recalibrate still, but the new controller would just work without any extra prompts. It would just magically be less cumbersome.

That way you avoid the problem of forcing people to upgrade their hardware for new games, but just make it naturally worthwhile for those willing to upgrade.



LittleLion said:

@snax007 that's not true. For example: In mechanics you need three axes to describe a force acting in 3D space. And you need to have 3 axes to describe a Torque (rotating force) acting in a 3D space (this is sensed in a gyrosensor), and these are not necessarily the same axes as the ones used to describe the force in 3D space: their coordinate system could be turned and or shifted any way possible. Because the two coordinate systems are not related to each other, they are two separate coordinate systems and thus 6 separate axes.

Now to describe the aim of an object in 3D space relative to a reference point, you'll need another 3 axes: Of course two to describe the horizontal plane (left right front and back), but also one axis for up and down.

The game pad sensors use three axes to describe the straight movement (or acceleration), three axes to describe the amount of rotation, and three axes to describe it's aim (or absolute rotation). None of these 9 axes are the same or necessarily in the same direction so it's a 9 axis controls.

You could even add 3 axes to describe the absolute position (for example relative to the tv) to describe where it is exactly.

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