Sixense Kickstarts next-gen motion controller for video games, VR

Sixense is responsible for the motion tracking technology inside Razer’s Hydra controller. Now, the company is taking to Kickstarter to fund a new controller based on a modular version of the same tech.

The STEM System, as it’s called, is capable of tracking up to five sensor modules independently. Those modules can be slotted into Hydra-style controllers or popped into packs designed to clip onto your body. The controllers and packs are wireless, so users won’t get tangled up when immersed in VR, and they also offer haptic feedback, likely via rumble motors.

Like the Hydra, the STEM System boasts precise position and orientation tracking. The tracking is good enough to detect movements of just a few millimeters and orientation changes of less than two degrees. Sixense promises drift-free tracking and less than 10 milliseconds of latency, as well.

Each STEM System’s base station has an effective tracking radius of eight feet, and you can extend that range by adding more base stations. Because the underlying technology relies on magnetic fields, it doesn’t require line of sight.

The Kickstarter campaign is seeking $250,000 in funding before October 12, and it will surely reach that goal. In just a few hours, 677 backers have pledged over $169,000. More than half of the early-bird bundles, which include two trackers, two controllers, and one base station for $149, are gone already. When those run out, you’ll have to pledge $199 for the same package. Early backers can reserve a five-sensor kit suitable for VR tracking for $349. Sixense expects pre-production units to be ready by April next year, with final versions shipping to backers in July.

Here’s the official pitch:

The Razer Hydra never really caught on with PC gamers, so I’m curious to see if the STEM System fares better with that audience. At the very least, it should be popular with the VR crowd that Kickstarted the Oculus Rift headset.

Comments closed
    • Diplomacy42
    • 9 years ago

    I’m confused, are you implying that video-games require more precision than the “industrial or medical sector?”

    • peartart
    • 9 years ago

    Haptic VR gnomes.

    • 0g1
    • 9 years ago

    Yeah, its definitely like Kinect. Good for only a few games where your body movements come into effect. Not good for precise, tactile control mechanisms required in the vast majority of games for aiming, driving, flying, etc. Well, its buttons will be ok for that, but then it becomes an overpriced console controller.

    • 0g1
    • 9 years ago

    Try read the article in its entirety:
    [quote<]Because the underlying technology relies on magnetic fields, it doesn't require line of sight.[/quote<] unlike what you propose: [quote<] The future belongs to range imaging cameras [/quote<]

    • Bensam123
    • 9 years ago

    A wheel has tactile feedback in the form of resistance and it’s more in line with what the actual device you’re using looks like, a wheel. That adds immersion and looks cooler. Same with flight joysticks. Although you could probably mount this in a holder, I don’t know why you’d want to.

    • DeadOfKnight
    • 9 years ago

    It could still replace the joystick for flight sims, wheel for racing games, infrared gun, etc. It could even become the new “Xbox 360 controller for Windows” for PC gaming enthusiasts if it gets enough support and drops in price.

    • Bensam123
    • 9 years ago

    Like the Kinect I can’t imagine this having a large impact on gaming and rather would have other uses, like say in the industrial or medical sector. I doubt this can be precise enough or people can be precise enough with it due to weight and sway of the controller.

    • DeadOfKnight
    • 9 years ago

    Well it certainly beats running on a treadmill. It would be cool if the faster you run in real life, the faster you can run ingame. Definitely not something I’d want to do all the time though.

    • Laykun
    • 9 years ago

    It’s hard to tell what that number is, but personally I’d love to be able to walk and run in my games as opposed to sitting. Not just because of the immersion but also because of the fitness. I think you can kill two birds with one stone with an Oculus + Omni.

    • Laykun
    • 9 years ago

    Ok so I checked my email this morning and got an Omni kickstarter update

    “Sixense STEM Kickstarter

    Today our friends at Sixense launched their Kickstarter campaign for the STEM wireless motion tracking system. The STEM is an impressive technology and an important piece to the VR puzzle, enabling accurate and low-latency tracking of hands, head, gun, or other peripherals and body parts. We will work closely together with Sixense to ensure that the Omni and STEM work well together, so that we can help establish a complete VR ecosystem. Note that you won’t need a STEM for feet tracking on the Omni; your Omni will come with integrated capacitive sensors in the Omni base that track the position of your two feet.
    The Sixense Kickstarter page can be found here.”

    This is very promising!

    • DeadOfKnight
    • 9 years ago

    The only thing I question is how much people really want to get up out of their seat and use stuff like the Omni or these foot sensors.

    • DeadOfKnight
    • 9 years ago

    Is it just me or do these seem like they’ll be awkward and unbalanced and/or heavy compared to the razer hydra?

    I mean there could be a good reason for it, but still. At least the sixense SDK already has some decent support from a handful of developers and enthusiasts, so there’s not as much risk as for others that are trying to do stuff like this:

    [url<]http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/yeitechnology/priovr-get-your-ideas-moving[/url<]

    • DeadOfKnight
    • 9 years ago

    It’s not just a rendering if there’s an actual prototype shell that looks like this.

    • Laykun
    • 9 years ago

    These guys need to work with the Omni guys . Seems like the perfect match to me.

    • yammerpickle2
    • 9 years ago

    I’ve a Wii and did not like the lag or position inaccuracy. I’m hoping this system will be better. I suspect there are a lot of other people with same opinion as the project is already over funding target on the first day.

    • DancingWind
    • 9 years ago

    Well to be fair Stereoscopic vision of Oculus rift needs a very low letancy in other words a high framerate and you need it for both eyes so if you want to build a photorealsitic VR world you will need a LOT of gpu power for graphics (this is the palace where double graphics cards could come into their own – just get a gpu for each eye 🙂 )
    Also the CPU must be fast enough to deliver updated data to gpu for rendering. We are talking 10-20 ms loops.
    My hope is VR will kickstart another revolution and rapid development in PC scene 🙂 you never know

    • vargis14
    • 9 years ago

    I love the hand controller design…like a gun Teamed up with the Rift it looks like FPS games would be a awesome experience. As long as you can adjust the crosshairs in the game to match the actual spot you are aiming at. To put it another way when I am pointing a handgun I know where I am aiming the gun even if my eyes are closed, it just would not feel right if you had to aim 5 degrees to the left or right to have your crosshairs where they would be naturally.

    It would be cool to have the rift on and not have the crosshairs stuck in the middle of the screen. But to have the crosshair where you are pointing your weapon so you can shoot stuff way off center of the centerpoint of your view allowing you to start to scan a different direction while shooting in another.

    Also since it comes with two pistol type controllers say LFD2 when you have two pistols imagine being able to have 2 independent crosshairs to shoot zombies on both sides of the screen 🙂 That would be sweet 🙂

    Now some hunters or marksman may have noticed this some people can do it naturally, others it is a learned skill. But if I am using any of my Hunting rifles with a 3×9 scope on it, even at 9x magnification and I see a 1ft round target or knot on a tree 100 yards away I can throw my gun up for a look and when i do look through the scope the knot on the tree i was throwing the gun up to see is 90+% of the time in the scope. While sitting in the woods for long periods of time I have done it hundreds of times and the instant that gun hits my shoulder the reticle is on the target I was going to aim at. Makes me wish i had a top shot setup with targets 50-100yards away and be able to throw my gun up a pull the trigger to test my accuracy without even looking through the scope. But it is just to unsafe to be throwing blind 30-06 and 250 savage rounds wizzin all over the place at 2800+Feet Per Sec not frame per sec 🙂

    • Chrispy_
    • 9 years ago

    It’s hard to knock someone for trying something new, but honestly, fancy controllers are a workaround for a more serious issue, games that lack fun gameplay.

    [url=http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NES-controller.jpg<]This[/url<] is possibly the finest digital controller around, and [url=http://www.extremetech.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Next-Gen-Controllers-640x353.png<]these*[/url<] are probably the best options if a game requires some analogue control too. [i<]*(of the two tip my hat to the x-bone for amazing haptic triggers) [/i<]

    • superjawes
    • 9 years ago

    “Affordable” is actually irrelevant if someone uses it for an arcade setup. Heck, my college town had an “arcade” full of Xbox 360s, PCs, and Wiis, selling customers play time. It worked very well for people who couldn’t afford a console, had shoddy internet, wanted to try a game before they bought it, or anyone who wanted to throw a gaming party.

    So as long as “the whole package” is fun, someone could open up a similar shop and anyone could play.

    • drfish
    • 9 years ago

    The Rift by itself is plenty good for anything where your chair is sufficient to simulate your relationship to your immediate surroundings (such as a car or plane). The point is you will have options from barebones display only VR all the way through motion capture running in place or true augmented reality once you can cut all the cords. Aside from looking dorky how is this a bad thing? They just need to pull off the integration well…

    As for expense sure, “the whole package” might be a little intimidating but with the stagnation of PC hardware what else are you going to spend your money on? 😛 Seriously though, this is neat tech, and the fact that it is even remotely affordable is awesome.

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 9 years ago

    It started with Oculus. Just $300.

    Then you had the treadmill. Just $500.

    Now you have the sensors and the controllers. Just $350.

    Next it’ll be the smell-o-vision. Just $300 with a $100 annual fee for the smell packet refill annual subscription.

    Then it’ll be the Underwear Rumble Packs that give you a party in your pants when you game. Only $200-300, depending on your… size.

    Oculus is swiftly turning into an expensive idea.

    • JohnC
    • 9 years ago

    It will. Perhaps not very soon, but the more people will work on improving that (instead of wasting time and money on temporary “band-aid” solutions) the sooner we will have that.

    • Wildchild
    • 9 years ago

    Congrats for being the only not-pessimistic comment so far.

    • superjawes
    • 9 years ago

    I did, and haptic technology won’t replace the feel of a button. You also have to worry about false presses, which is probably the worst part of touch screen gaming.

    • JohnC
    • 9 years ago

    Well, certain photos on that project’s page do look like a “photorealistic renders”. But that is, of course, up to KS to decide.

    • NeelyCam
    • 9 years ago

    Who stole your coffee this morning?

    • JohnC
    • 9 years ago

    Try to read my post in its entirety, please.

    • superjawes
    • 9 years ago

    [quote=”Kickstarter”<]To clarify, we mean photorealistic renderings of a product concept. Technical drawings, CAD designs, sketches, and other parts of the design process will continue to be allowed. Seeing the guts of the creative process is important. We love that stuff. However renderings that could be mistakedn for finished products are prohibited.[/quote<] On the same page you linked...

    • zqw
    • 9 years ago

    KS doesn’t want misleading photo-real renders. They clarified right on that page.

    • superjawes
    • 9 years ago

    No no no-no-no-no-no no, no virtual buttons. I don’t care how cool cameras get, being able to feel the button press will always be superior.

    • indeego
    • 9 years ago

    I’m thinking mind probes will be a better tactic here. I/O starts there, might as well tap it.

    • JohnC
    • 9 years ago

    Also, this project should actually be closed according to Kickstarter’s own rules:
    [url<]http://www.kickstarter.com/blog/kickstarter-is-not-a-store[/url<] "Product renderings are prohibited"

    • JohnC
    • 9 years ago

    Buttons? For what? In the future the range imaging cameras will be able to perfectly sense your attempt at pressing a “virtual” button and your VR gloves with a haptic feedback will give you a perfect physical “feel” of doing that.

    • drfish
    • 9 years ago

    The buttons have to go somewhere…

    • drfish
    • 9 years ago

    Pretty harsh initial comments. You need to picture this, the Rift, the Omni treadmill, and a probably a Kinect like device all working together… Practical? Not yet, but unless you have no imagination you can see the potential…

    • superjawes
    • 9 years ago

    [quote<]The Razer Hydra never really caught on with PC gamers, so I'm curious to see if the STEM System fares better with that audience.[/quote<] 1. Hydra was expensive. Like $100 expensive, IIRC. 2. It didn't offer much more over a keyboard and mouse. 3. It didn't open up new games since everything can still use a keyboard and mouse. If they want STEM to catch on, they need good games that utilize it, which cannot be played without one. They might be able to swing a $100 product with games to back it up, but getting that price down would certainly help adoption.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 9 years ago

    I mean I’m all for living room controllers for pc improving.

    • albundy
    • 9 years ago

    so, they spent years and countless time and cash to copy the nintnendo wii controller?

    • JohnC
    • 9 years ago

    Useless. The future belongs to range imaging cameras, not these.

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