New company to make full body exoskeleton game controller

[From (“Where Gamers Call Home”)]

New Company to Make Full Body Exoskeleton Game Controller

XIO will debut at E3, offering movement tracking and physical feedback.

By Frank Cifaldi, 06/03/2010

In 2006, Nintendo’s Wii stripped down the concept of a virtual reality interface to an affordable plastic peripheral, finally bringing the VR promise of the early 90s into the home. Microsoft is simplifying things even further this year with Project Natal, which takes away controllers entirely in favor of a camera that senses your body’s movement. But Forcetek USA, a new player in the game interface market, wants to bring virtual reality back to its roots, by developing a range of devices that will cover your entire body and sense your every movement.

Yes, that’s right. Forcetek wants to bring a full-body exoskeleton suit into your home.

The device, which Forcetek is calling the XIO (prounounced “zee-oh”), uses technology originally developed for sports training and physical rehabilitation purposes to not only sense the body’s movement, but provide physical feedback, something that none of the dedicated game consoles can claim.

“It’s a very lightweight device made of very lightweight material,” Forcetek’s Ryan Christoff tells us. “If you’re punching somebody [in a boxing game] and you make contact with the other boxer, you would actually be able to feel it. You’re going to feel it stop. Our resistance modules are going to engage and you’re going to be able to feel that.”

In addition to providing this sudden-stop feedback to create a sense of immersion, Christoff says that the unit will also help “reinforce the correct muscle pattern for the activity being simulated,” meaning that it could possibly be used as a fitness or training tool. But Forcetek is introducing the tech to the videogame market because, as Christoff says, the healthcare field is more difficult to penetrate.

“It’s just difficult getting into healthcare and selling anything right now, just extremely difficult with the way the market is,” said Christoff. “That’s something that we’ll do down the road…the challenges of getting people in the healthcare arena to do anything takes years and years and years,” said Christoff.

Forcetek plans to unveil its first XIO product — the arm attachment pictured above — on June 15th at its expo booth at E3 in Los Angeles. Further expansions, according to a press statement, include “shoulder, back and lower body attachments to add to the virtual experience,” as well as “an optional onboard computer and XIO headgear” that will “allow the system to become totally self-contained on the user for inside or outside multiple player use.” However, these aren’t ready to be seen yet.

“We were hoping to have the shoulder ready for the show, but it’s a little bit more of a complex joint, so we held off on that,” explained Christoff.

At E3, the device will be demonstrated using an off-the-shelf boxing game running on a PC, to gather feedback and gauge interest from game players and developers.

“We’re in talks with a lot of people right now,” said Christoff. “We haven’t signed anything with anybody yet because that’s kind of just what we decided to do. We want to bring this to the show and find out who is interested and what happens from there.”

A price range for the XIO has not been announced, through Christoff says it will be “very competitive with what’s out there already.”

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