Intellect Motion has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for its iMotion advanced motion-control device that makes you feel like you’re using your hand in a virtual space. The device started life in the medical world, but Intellect Motion is adapting it for use in motion-sensing video games with touch feedback.
You can hold the controller in your hand and wave it in front of a webcam to use it like a mouse. It’s sort of like the Tom Cruise gesture-control computer in the film Minority Report.
The iMotion gives you touch feedback and can serve as a tool, like a virtual hand, to help you navigate a 3D virtual world. In that sense, it resembles the Sixense Entertainment wireless motion-sensing game controller. You can also pair the iMotion with the Oculus Rift virtual-reality goggles. You strap the iMotion to your hand, like a glove, and use it to interact with titles and apps in a 3D space.
Singapore-based Intellect Motion launched its campaign two days ago, and it has already raised $24,255 from 292 backers. It is targeting $100,000, and it has 28 days to get there. I saw a demo of the device earlier this week. You hold the iMotion in front of an ordinary webcam. The camera detects the controller strapped to your hand. When you move your hand, you can move the mouse cursor on the screen. You can then squeeze the device to do a mouse click, and the computer can send feedback to the iMotion’s orange buttons, which buzz in your hand.
“We’ve created a project that will deliver a unique interface device that is both affordable and responsive, while featuring very low latency for a high performance experience that outpaces even the most advanced motion control devices available today for the average consumer,” said Alex Khromenkov, chief executive and chief technology officer of Intellect Motion. “With haptic feedback provided to the user’s palm, interaction within 3D spaces, virtual environments, and even web browsing takes on a new dimension. We know people are going to enjoy the immersiveness of the experience that iMotion provides.”
The product’s range is from about 10 centimeters to 5 meters. Like the PlayStation Move motion-sensing controller, the iMotion uses LED light detection. The camera detects three lights on the surface of the iMotion to determine the body’s position in 3D space. It also figures out the angle of rotation and plane of elevation. The iMotion’s innards include a gyroscope and accelerometer.
You have to position yourself within view of the camera. When you move around inside a virtual world, the device can give you feedback. If you reach out with your hand, you can actually feel the touch of a wall. The device I used worked OK. Sometimes, it didn’t detect my hand gestures. Sometimes, it did. But it’s a prototype. I played Angry Birds with it and used the iMotion to pull the strap of a slingshot.
It wasn’t very intuitive in my short demo, but I managed to send birds into the green pigs. You can control things with gestures, playing first-person shooters, fighting games, or content-creation experiences. Intellect Motion says the iMotion is accurate to 0.08 inches, and it has a latency of 10 to 20 milliseconds. It will work in applications running at up to 100 frames per second if you have a high-end camera. The touch feedback uses Bluetooth to send a signal to a haptic vibro-sensor in the handheld device. That gives you instant feedback and helps you “feel” the virtual space in front of you.
iMotion has been in the works since last year. Intellect Motion plans to use its funding to complete the final design and start production of the iMotion. Prices will be higher for the final devices that ship next year.
Building an ecosystem for the device will potentially challenge developers. To make use of the haptic feedback, they will have to create games or apps that integrate the iMotion Software Developers Kit. The controller works with Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. It is also compatible with the Oculus Rift. People who purchases the iMotion will have access to the SDK, so anyone could make apps for the platform.
The iMotion should ship to Kickstarter backers in February. It will cost $49 for the first 100 units, and the next tier will sell for $59. A system can support up to four iMotions at once. Intellect Motion has research and development in Minsk, Belarus.