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Immersion Introduces Next-Generation Vibration Technology

by Rainier on June 19, 2006 @ 5:51 a.m. PDT

Immersion introduces its next-generation TouchSense vibration technology to match the realism expected of next-generation video console gaming systems, offering a wider range of vibration effects that come even closer to simulating the physical world than existing console gaming systems.

The new TouchSense technology also supplies improved synchronization with audio and onscreen graphic events, backward compatibility for vibration effects in current games, powerful and intuitive authoring tools that allow developers to create a much wider range of effects in less time, and the ability to work alongside motion control and tilt sensing -- all without cost, power consumption, weight, or space increases for most systems.

"Next-generation realistic sound and graphics are very impressive and help extend the illusion of the game," said Vic Viegas, Immersion CEO. "But to more closely emulate the real world and provide an even more immersive experience, you also need to engage the sense of touch. Gamers like vibration feedback in their console games today and have definitely come to expect it. Our new technology supplies a dramatic improvement in the action that gamers feel. We believe it is an innovation the market deserves to have in next-generation consoles."

With the new technology, vibrations can be crisper, shorter in duration, more closely spaced, more in sync with onscreen events, simultaneous, and both stronger and more subtle to supply a new level of realism. Shorter, crisper effects allow the feel of machine gun fire to be more staccato-like and also more closely synchronized with the sounds and appearance of realistic gun fire. New levels of strength and variation allow gamers to feel the accelerating surge of powering up a light saber, followed by the transition to a subtle hum, then the jolt of clashing with their opponent's light saber. A more subtle capability allows the springy sensation of hitting a tennis ball or the fast, crisp connective feel of catching a long pass, supplying a far more immersive experience. Multiple, simultaneous game effects can be separately rendered to increase engagement and excitement. For example, distinctly different vehicle vibrations caused by driving over gravel, rocks, and mud could be felt along with the sharp pop of shifting gears or the force of acceleration or deceleration.

Immersion's next-generation technology is designed to provide all-around better performance without system tradeoffs, as well as dramatic advancements in developer tools:

  • The new TouchSense technology is compatible with motion control and tilt sensing that allow players to control certain game actions by moving or tilting a handheld controller. Because the speed at which a user moves the controller is much slower than the frequencies generated by TouchSense technology, the two signals can be differentiated using filtering and other techniques. Immersion also offers engineering services to implement the technology within a particular console system.
  • Power consumption will not be greater than existing dual-motor systems, and in many cases will be less. Next-generation vibration tends to include a wider range of effects, from subtle to full strength. So, unlike dual-motor systems, full voltage will likely be used less and may result in reduced power consumption.
  • Space and weight will be less for vibration components because the new technology employs only one actuator as opposed to two motors, an advantage when using motion or tilt control.
  • Backward compatibility to supply very similar tactile sensations for games designed for present-day dual-motor systems will be possible using Immersion's emulator on the console or inside the peripheral, providing a transparent process requiring no action by the user.
  • The technology can work in a wireless controller and employs a compact communications protocol that speeds the transmission of control functions to better synchronize tactile effects with onscreen action.
  • Depending on the quality of the dual-motor system under comparison, the new vibration system can cost less because elimination of the cost of one motor in a great many cases will offset a slightly more complex single actuator.
  • To take advantage of the new capabilities, Immersion supplies effect creation and programming tools, Immersion Studio┬« for Gaming SDK, that let developers quickly mock up and edit a graphical representation of the effect, preview the effect on the controller, and store it as a file. Immersion's software in the console interprets the file and controls the actuator to faithfully play it.

"Programming vibration effects with existing console toolsets is akin to the punch-card era of computing," explains Christophe Ramstein, Immersion senior vice president, research and engineering. "Immersion Studio allows developers to deal in objects and inter-relationships like any modern programming language, freeing them from tedious low-level mechanics and letting them concentrate on integrating the vibration effects with graphics and sound. They can finally focus on the art of creating even more compelling vibrations."

Console and peripheral manufacturers and developers all will be involved in bringing next-generation vibration technology to market. Available now, next-generation vibration technology is comprised of three main components: (1) Immersion's sophisticated control algorithms, APIs, and drivers designed for the gaming console, (2) easy-to-use, high-level developer tools for creating rich and realistic tactile effects for console games, and (3) innovative actuator designs for enabling next-generation vibrations in gaming peripherals.

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