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PC Peripherals: Project Tuatara Interview

Last week Player Affinity did a round-up of gadgets shown at the New York Comic Con, and one of the things which impressed us most was a PC peripheral codenamed “Project Tuatara”. In short, Tuatara is a motion-sensing wireless controller that replaces your mouse and keyboard, and has a built in wireless projector which replaces your monitor.  It senses where you aim and projects the game directly in front of you on the wall, floor or ceiling.
Project Tuatara Gaming Prototype & A Comic Con Staffer

We spoke with David Lashmet the Global Product Manager for Advanced Applications at Microvision, makers of Project Tuatara.

Player Affinity:  Is the rifle design shown at Comic Con close to the final design in terms of Aesthetics?  Will potential controversies over realistic weapons affect the design, or distribution?

David Lashmet:  There is nothing final about that design.  This was the first shot at ergonomic design, modeled after a bullpup rifle design, with buttons in sensible locations.  We were also testing a new tracking module, and the shape-space of the design was driven in part by the size of the electronics board.  We had to build around it.

You should know that this device can have many different shapes.  For example, Microvision also has a disc-shaped version, and that may be the form factor that ultimately comes to market.  The disc-shaped version works especially well for schools, museums, and casual games.

Player Affinity:  Will it have force feedback and “Kick” when fired?

David Lashmet:  Turns out that a booming sound and a flashing light together with the trigger pull make a highly believable firing experience.  Actual force feedback has consistently been a lower priority item in user testing, but it's also consistently appeared in our surveys.  So it's definitely something we will explore.

Player Affinity:  How much does it weigh, what is the estimated battery life and what kind of batteries might it use?

David Lashmet:  Whether it's a disc or a rifle shape is not yet clear, nor is the final mass.  As a concept demonstrator, we are using rechargeable batteries in the form of a magazine, and this gives us 2.5 hours of battery life per cartridge.  But that's so we don't have to switch the clips during demos, more than a refined and tested design criterion.

Player Affinity:  How will it function in a typical cluttered living room with things on the walls?

David Lashmet:  About as well as Wii, Kinect, or Play Station Move, with the proviso that the walls need to be bare, covered, or avoided.  Using removable picture hooks, I morphed a hotel room into an Infinite Reality gaming space in about 15 minutes, with some white shower curtains over the fixed pictures.  The next time I put up the curtains took 3 minutes.  And the hooks came back off the walls with no trace they were ever there.  So once you set up once, it's a pretty easy transition. 

We've asked "Where would you play?" in our exit surveys over the last six months. 99.8% of the respondents already know where they would play, and an overwhelming majority of them call out a specific room in their homes.  Living room is one of the most common answers, along with basement, garage, spare room, bedroom, and "bathroom with white walls"!

It's easy to play with Project Tuatara on one wall, two walls, or three walls.  Ceiling-specific games are pretty interesting too.  This is a way people can use a whitespace to tour museums or a virtual rainforest while lying in beds.  That's one reason why we build a disc-shaped demonstrator: to allow Infinite Reality gaming from bed, for counting sheep.
Player Affinity:  What sort of software or drivers will need to be installed?  Are there any known incompatibilities?

David Lashmet:  We have tried 22 different First Person Shooters and Third Person Shooters so far, as well as Virtual Reality simulators and some demonstration games we developed.  We haven't seen any incompatibilities, because we push wireless tracking in to the PC using USB mouse code, and wireless buttons using USB keyboard code.  The video out is HDMI/DVI.  So as far as a PC knows, it's just seeing a mouse, keyboard and monitor. 

Player Affinity:  Would it work with game consoles?

David Lashmet:  Yes. The controllers would need to speak the right code for the specific console in question, and such code needs to be licensed.  Otherwise, video out is seamless.  And using Bluetooth to get a signal to the console is easy.  But we have not demonstrated this yet.  We like PC's, and the PC player community.

Player Affinity:  When do you think Project Tuatara might come to market, how would it be distributed, and what would the estimated price be?

David Lashmet:  To me it makes the most sense to bundle the device with a particular piece of software, to maximize their compatibility, including the function of an in-game device "avatar" with an ergonomic and possibly force feedback device held by the user in the real world.  That's what Infinite Reality gaming is about: a new class of blended experience.  We will also make this device backward-compatible with all your favorite titles.  We have no other comment on timing, channel, or price.

Player Affinity:  When can our readers get a hands-on demo next?

David Lashmet:  I do know we are scheduled for CeBit [In Germany] next March. 

Player Affinity will continue following Project Tuatara; keep an eye on our PC department in the future for updates, and to learn when you can try Project Tuatara for yourself.



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