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Hands-On with Sixense STEM on Gear VR

User input in virtual reality (VR) is a widely discussed issue. Even at the point where we can see consumer devices looming on the horizon, there is no universal agreement on how videogames and experiences in VR should be controlled. Most currently rely on gamepad input, but there are a number of companies investing in the ideal of motion-control devices. Sixense are arguably one of the leaders in this field.

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The company’s solution for motion-control input on PC, the Sixense STEM System, has been widely documented. Using two controllers – one in each hand – the device emulates real body movement in a very close approximation to real-time. It’s impressive, but there is much competition and many come close or equal the device’s capabilities. Sixense broke out, however, with the confirmation that the STEM System would also be compatible with Gear VR.

At present only one handle can be used with Gear VR – either your left or your right hand (the demonstration automatically assuming it’s your right) – but the demonstration is nonetheless impressive. It’s the same old lightsaber experience Sixense have been showcasing for some time; equipped with a red lightsaber the player must deflect lasers fired by a floating training device closely modelled on that featured in Star Wars: A New Hope. It’s a simple yet very impressive showcase of the technology, responding accurately to even the swiftest of motion.

Along with this single handle comes the STEM System’s own positional tracking device. Clipped onto the rear of the Gear VR’s headband, this allows for positional tracking on a device that currently does not officially support it. Of course software will have to be developed with this in mind to make use of it, potentially dividing the device’s audience, but at present it’s nothing less than impressive: the player is free to move about the space however they wish and the videogame responds accordingly. There is no need for an omnidirectional treadmill with this level of accuracy in detection, so long as developers are able to achieve the same high standard as Sixense themselves.

Despite an SDK now being available to developers there is no confirmation of a release date for the STEM System, nor whether or not it will be compatible with Gear VR out-of-the-box. Given the quality of the experience hopes remain high that Sixense will recognise the need to support Gear VR as standard as they intend to do with the consumer version of the Oculus Rift, and when confirmation of this comes VRFocus will be sure to keep you updated.