Today Hillcrest Labs made good on a device they showcased back at CES 2007 – The Loop. It’s a wireless control device designed for home theater PCs, Apple TV, or the PS3 and comes in just one shape…a loop.
The circular remote sports just four buttons and a scroll wheel and makes use of an RF dongle to transmit controls to your favorite living room web browsing device. Essentially Hillcrest Labs took a look at a Wiimote and the way it controls the Wii menu systems and created their own. The Loop also senses motion, so you don’t have to be pointing the device at anything (how do you point a circle?). Just tilt your wrist in the direction you want to move.
For $99 you can get rid of that wireless keyboard and mouse rig in your living room.
Last month we ran a highlight on Johnny Chung Lee, the notorious Wiimote hacker responsible for making things like smartboards, multi-point touchscreens, and virtual 3D environments capable of responding to a user’s location, all from a $30 Wiimote. Lee gained notoriety not only for creating complex equipment from simple parts, but because he kept his work free, available on YouTube and his own website.
Well Lee’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed, particularly by Microsoft. Remember that little thing they debuted yesterday? Project Natal? Yeah, that little game-changer (both the development game and the game itself). As it turns out, Microsoft managed to yank Lee away from his Wiimote hacks (probably by stuffing his pockets) to work on the development team for Project Natal.
“Now, I should preface by saying I don’t deserve credit for anything that you saw at E3,” Lee wrote in a blog post last night. “A large team of very smart, very hard-working people were involved in building the demos you saw on stage. The part I am working on has much more to do with making sure this can transition from the E3 stage to your living room – for which there is an even larger team of very smart, very hard-working people involved.”
Hard work indeed. If you haven’t seen the demo videos, you need to, because Natal points to some really groundbreaking possibilities. As Lee puts things, “We would all love to one day have our own personal holodeck. This is a pretty measurable step in that direction.”
I said yesterday that I was having trouble being skeptical about Natal. It is some incredible technology, but my excitement’s wearing off and I’m beginning to think my dreams are probably bigger than the device. Can it really be as great as Lee says? And when he says a step, how big is that step (and obviously it’s one of MANY before we’re anywhere close to a holodeck)? Are you bouncing-off-the-walls excited or just watching from the corner of your eye?
I do know this, if Lee is involved, Microsoft is compiling a pretty incredible team, and it would take a load of bureaucratic problems to turn their hard work into a lackluster device.
Promo videos always show the best side of things. That’s their point. To promote the goodness of something and get people interested in buying it. If you’re like me, you probably watch those videos with a healthy dose of salt in your hand. That’s exactly how I watched Microsoft’s promo video for Project Natal, their controller-less full body motion capture toy, but it didn’t work. Try as I might, my skepticism has left me. This thing looks like the ten year evolution of the Wii done in half the time.
Project Natal is a sensor bar, much like that of the Wii. Instead of picking up the signal of the infrared camera in the controller, though, Natal senses your movement. All of it. The bar is equipped with a couple 3D cameras and a microphone, allowing for voice recognition. I’m sure your imagination is already sprinting towards Dance Dance Revolution or punching Mike Tyson without worrying about throwing a controller. Watch the video below – it says it all.
I’ve been looking for an excuse to write about the crazy things people do with a Wiimote for a while now and a recent Ubergizmo post finally tipped the scales. Ubergizmo reports that a team of scientists are working to make the Wiimote usable for radiologists, allowing doctors to flip through patient files and images with gestures instead of the tried-and-sometimes-limiting keyboard and mouse. Personally, I imagine it to be something like the computer from Minority Report, wherein Tom Cruise sends images and video clips flying off screen, pulling others in to be resized, viewed from alternate angles, and relit to solve futuristic crimes.
All of that for $30? With a little programming knowledge, yes. The Wiimote IR camera is remarkably advanced, despite its low cost. Researcher Johnny Chung Lee (pictured in the video below) has devoted loads of time and research into getting the most out of Nintendo’s controller, and he’s made his discoveries public. Armed with a Wiimote and a few infrared dots, Lee has created a digital whiteboard, a multi-point touchscreen, and even a 3D environment capable of sensing a user’s movements and adjusting accordingly.
With researchers like Lee, Wiimote hacks are becoming increasingly complex and remaining completely free, allowing users and researchers to build off the wacky things accomplished with incredibly low-cost hardware. To see Lee’s work in action, check out the video below. The clip comes from TED, a website you should absolutely be watching.
In case you missed it, here’s what’s Bouncing Around the Web:
Nikon has released what seems to be a wonderful new DSLR. It combines a 12.3 megapixel still camera with a video camera that shoots 720p video at 24fps. The best part? It starts at $730. From a high level, it looks like the D5000 is a consumer’s D90 at a more affordable price point. Well done Nikon… well done. Via Wired
Who doesn’t love a good rumor? Or better yet, a good Apple rumor? Or better still, a new iPhone rumor? Or best of all, a new iPhone rumor backed by actual data? Yes, the new iPhone’s features may have been leaked with the release of the iPhone OS 3.0. In the OS, developers have found several interesting things like: a video recorder, auto-focus, an iPhone locator, voice control and more. Yum! Via Wired
Nintendo has announced the release date for their new Wii MotionPlus accessory. If you haven’t heard yet, MotionPlus is supposed to give a more true 1-to-1 experience on the Wii. Things like swinging a golf club or handling a sword will act more like the real thing than ever before. It’s a pretty cool concept and I expect the final product to be solid. So look to pick one up for $19.99 on June 8 or bundled with Wii Sports Resort for $49.99 a few weeks later. Via IGN
In order for a touchscreen to be successful, the user needs to feel that he is in constant control, and for this, responsiveness is key—even small lags can prove immensely frustrating. One recent offender of this rule is the Blackberry Storm, RIM’s first touchscreen phone.
Some history: Before the Storm was released, there was a lot of buzz surrounding its supposedly ground-breaking touchscreen, which depresses like a button, giving users a satisfying “click”.
But when users and reviewers actually got their hands on their device, the real shock was how buggy the whole thing was. The touchscreen suffered from long delays—often a second or more—that made users yearn for their old button-based Blackberry. And completing simple tasks took an unnecessary number of steps. For example, inputting the letter “C” involves putting one’s finger on the letter, waiting for the phone to respond by highlighting the letter, and then pushing down. All that for a simple letter.
I can definitely agree with some of this. BlackBerry, for instance, had a good vision when designing the touch-and-click function in the Storm, but the execution was less than stellar. Have you tried this thing? Press and hold, press harder, wait for it… wait for it… and click. Are you kidding me? That’s the ultra-innovative touch-screen we’ve been waiting for? Please.
I can’t agree too much with the Wii Remote. After all, they did include a wrist strap with every Wiimote. If you choose not to use the wrist strap, that’s at your own risk.
I’ve already touched on the Kindle vs. the Kindle 2 here, so I won’t go there right now.
Check out the article and let me know if you know of any sweet gadgets that have a clear miss in the design.