The International Consumer Electronics Show gives companies from all around the world a place to show off their latest and greatest innovations. From robotics and driverless cars to automated sprinkler systems and window-washing robots, the amount of technology present is absolutely mind-boggling. Even though the show isn’t tailored specifically to gamers, there’s no doubt that much of the tech debuted at the show could have awesome potential for gaming. Here are just a few pieces of tech I saw that could change the way we game.
- Akoustic Arts “A” Directional Speaker
I’m all about headset gaming, but it’s pretty hard to stay tuned in to what’s going on around me in the real world when I’ve got virtual explosions all around me. That said, gaming with open speakers can bother other people in the house who are trying to pay attention to their own things…and if you live in an apartment, it’s easy to end up on a neighbor’s bad side when you’re playing Call of Duty at 3 in the morning. Akoustic Arts produces a speaker that almost directs sound like a laser: when you’re standing in its field, you hear the sound, but when you step out of its field, you hear nothing. This would be great for desktop gaming setups where only one person is playing; you may need multiple speakers to accommodate larger groups/listening areas.
Back in college a few friends of mine were in to this role-playing game called Belegarth: they’d make swords and shields out of PVC pipe and foam, then fight each other in hand-to-hand combat out on the quad. (I’ll admit, I tried it, too…) Lyteshot might be considered a high-tech evolution of that: by combining a laser-firing gun called the Lyter with a chest-mounted sensor called the LytePuck, players can engage in various sorts of games with each other. They’ve already come up with two: a first-person shooter called Assassin, and a fantasy combat game with multiple character classes including a wizard, a warrior, and a ranger. Using the LyteShot SDK, gamers can create their own games and design custom peripherals to sell through the LyteShot marketplace. The interface is even compatible with Epson’s Moverio smart glasses, meaning that players can have heads-up displays with stats and in-game information.
Successfully Kickstarted back in July of 2013, Omni allows you to move around in PC games using actual motion. Using a combination of a large, dish-shaped pad and special frictionless shoes, Omni translates your physical walking and running into movement in your favorite game. During the demo, Omni staff used a combination of a VR headset with a gun peripheral to travel through a training simulation, shooting special targets and moving around obstacles to get to the end of the level. Though it might not be a practical solution for smaller gaming spaces, I can imagine plenty of gaming applications for the Omni: imagine actually walking around Skyrim, or sneaking your way past enemies in Dishonored. I’d probably opt out of using Omni for zombie/horror games, though…I’d rather not let my lack of physical fitness make me a zombie’s meal.
- Oculus Rift
Virtual Reality can’t be mentioned without Oculus Rift, the Facebook-purchased company showed off a couple of demonstrations at CES of its technology. I tried a game compatible with the Samsung Gear VR headset; after strapping a Galaxy Note 4 into the headset, I blew up alien starfighters in my own spacecraft, swiveling in my chair to steer and using a touchpad on the side of the headset to fire my weapons. I’ll admit, there was something really intriguing about the full-immersion factor of VR; instinctively, playing a game on a flat TV screen or monitor makes you think about the world in two dimensions, even in 3D games, but using the headset made me realize there was space all above and below me to explore and utilize. While my colleague Grayson Hamilton managed to get a little more hands-on time than myself, I’m interested in seeing how Oculus and other VR companies will use the technology to enhance gaming.
- DTS Headphone:X
As an amateur audiophile, I’m most excited about DTS:X, custom sound technology that creates a field of sound that reaches around, above, and below the listener. We checked it out during DTS’ Sound Unbound demonstration at CES, which used a series of speakers mounted on the ceiling to produce the sound envelope. You won’t need a fancy home surround sound speaker system to experience this, though: DTS has already partnered with multiple companies to get their technology into headphones with their Headphone:X project. Gaming headset producers are already on-board, including Kingston and Turtle Beach. Improving the sound quality of your gaming is a surefire way to get more enjoyment out of your favorite games, and hopefully the implementation of new sound technologies will create a more expansive, immersive gaming experience regardless of the style of the game.