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Virtual reality immerses your eyes in another world, but it still isn’t that great at bringing the rest of you into it. The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift have tried to bring your hands in with motion controllers, but they’re not all that accurate.
That’s why there’s still promise for other solutions like Sixense’s STEM VR controllers. I saw them at the recent SVVR event in San Jose, Calif., where I tried out Sixense’s medical app. I also played with Sixense’s Siege VR on the HTC Vive. It’s a simple two-player game where you shoot arrows at approaching attackers who are besieging a castle.
The VR game uses Vive controllers, which detect your body position and your hands using an electromagnet sensor. The controllers aren’t bad, but the STEM wireless controllers are more accurate at figuring out where your hands are in a 3D space.
In the demo, I put on the VR headset and picked up the controllers. Then, I grabbed a bow in my left hand and picked up an arrow, going through the physical motions. I could use regular arrows or grab a fire arrow and dip it in a flame to light it. Then, I pulled back on the bow and let the arrow fly, making the same motions I would if I was shooting a real arrow.
The process was physical, and I had to get used to it through muscle memory. I had to do it fast since soldiers and siege catapults were advancing down the road to my castle. I had to blow the siege catapults up, either with flaming arrows or by directing my own catapults at them via an artillery arrow. The special arrows run out and regenerate over time, but I always had plenty of regular arrows.
It was a lot of fun and fast paced. I had to shoot fast and keep grabbing arrows. And it felt a lot more precise than other VR experiences.
Sixense hopes that Siege VR can become a habitual game or even an esport.
“You can play this a hundred times and you’ll get better and better and better,” said Amir Rubin, CEO of Sixense.
Sixense has been working on the technology for a while. Its technology was used in pre-VR gaming control systems, such as the Razer Hydra, and it was used in Valve’s Portal 2: In Motion DLC. Sixense adapted the technology for VR. But neither Oculus nor HTC used the STEM technology when they created their own hand controls for VR. Sixense is now taking STEM into the professional market, but demos like the Siege VR game show that it could still find a place in the consumer market.
For now, Siege VR is a good demo. I’d like to see this technology get into the market in some way. One of its cousins, MakeVR, has debuted on the HTC Vive VR headset. We’ll see where it goes from here.
Rubin said that SiegeVR is the first game on our vSport tournament platform, which is being developed in partnership with slot machine maker IGT, which hopes to use the tech in casinos. Sixense will use the Siege VR game in arcades and consumer applications. .
“The Vive is our preferred VR system for all our VR products. We find the Vive as the most accurate, reliable (provides consistent presence experience) and user friendly (for both developers and end users) VR system today,” Rubin said.
The STEM system is a developer kit fo rnow, and it is available for other companies to license.
Update: I used the HTC Vive to play the Siege VR game, not the STEM controllers, which worked with a medical application.
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