Hollywood Producer Ari Arad Introduces New Razer Sixense Technology for the Home

January 6, 2011

By John Gaudiosi

LAS VEGAS -- The man behind some of the biggest Marvel blockbusters of all time, including Iron Man, Spider-Man and X-Men, has set his sights on the videogame world. In addition to bringing big screen adaptations of bestselling games like Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, EverQuest, Lost Planet, and Infamous to a theater near you through Arad Productions, producer Ari Arad is introducing a new way to play PC games with his newest company, Razer Sixense. Arad, the Chief Creative Officer of the videogame company, used his own lifelong experience as a devoted gamer to help turn military technology into a new motion tracking controller that promises to enhance the interactive experience of everything from shooters to racing games. With over three years in development, the new controller is on display at CES 2011.

“The Razer Sixense is fundamentally different from all other motion tracking technologies in the gaming market today,” explained Jeff Bellinghausen, CTO Sixense. “This technology uses very weak magnetic fields that travel at the speed of light to determine the exact position and orientation of the controllers in space. The system measures the controller’s position to within 1mm and its orientation to within one degree, and does so 60 times per second. With this high precision tracking, games can exactly mimic the player’s motions, letting them reach into the virtual world to pick up objects just as they do in the real world.”

Arad added that in a first-person shooter, gamers can throw grenades in any direction, effortlessly lobbing them onto rooftops and through windows. The controllers can be used in racing games as highly responsive steering wheels; in track editors, reaching directly into the game environment to snap track pieces together; or in flight simulators one controller will serve as a flight stick and the other as a throttle. Players will experience fluid 1-to-1 interaction in Real Time Strategy games - zooming, rotating, giving unit commands and generally monitoring the state of the field of play effortlessly and intuitively.

“Since the controllers measure their position using a magnetic field, no line of sight is required from the base unit to the controllers,” said Bellinghausen. “You can hold them behind your back and they still track. This is different from camera-based solutions (the depth cameras in Natal and the optical cameras in the Move), which require that the controller be in constant view of the camera. For some games like golf, where the back swing takes the controller behind the player’s head, this can be a problem. Players must also be careful to keep the controllers within the limited field of view of the camera, and to avoid certain environmental conditions like direct sunlight. These limitations force users and developers to focus on the technology and not the experience.”

Other systems like the Wii and Wii Motion Plus use inertial sensors to track the position of the controllers. While this technology is good at sensing quick shakes of the controller, it cannot maintain the absolute position. This is why gamers often end up shaking their Wii controllers.

Razer Sixense has partnered with Valve and is offering the Sixence SDK on Steam so that any developer can download the technology and documentation and start incorporating this controller into gameplay. Arad, who spends a lot of his free time playing independently developed games like Braid and World of Goo, said it was important for his company to allow the creative minds of the booming indie game development scene to explore this technology, in addition to the more established game studios.

Bellinghausen said this technology was designed to work with any device that has a USB port. At launch any open system, like the PC or Mac, will work with the controllers. But Bellinghausen believes that in the future, consumer demand will drive availability on all platforms. In addition, with more home entertainment centers driven by the PC, and the ability to connect PCs directly to HD TVs, Arad believes this gaming technology will evolve beyond the PC gamer sitting at his desk.