CES 2007: Wii-style control for PC games

Non-Nintendo gamers jealous of the console's infamous wand will soon be able to go one better. Novint is using its experience in designing responsive controls for robotic surgery to give PC gamers a force feedback controller that is, to all intents and purposes, a 3D mouse.

The contraption - called the Falcon - is a little bizarre at first sight. Suspended by three arms that provide location data to the PC and force feedback to the player is a small ball-shaped handgrip with three mouse keys on top. The grip itself is interchangeable, and should the ball prove a little too tiny for large pawed players, trigger grips and the like are due to follow.

For the launch of the controller, Novint has commissioned a series of simple Wii-like games that involve controlling small objects in 3D space, like a bat in a Whack-a-Rat game. These are fun, but at the moment, aren't really worth the $189 asking price (after all, a Wii is only a few dollars more).

Having played a specially enhanced level of Half-Life 2, however, this strange looking controller could be the first really convincing replacement for the mouse for first-person control.

Apart from the accuracy and surprisingly intuitive behaviour of the controller, strafing is particularly easy to do, the feedback sensation is just brilliant. A quick trip to the Gun Store here in Vegas confirms the .44 Magnum in Gordon's grasp actually does kick like the real life Dirty Harry version when fired.

More importantly, the feedback is cunning enough to let you know where shots are being fired from. Forget rumbling sticks, this controller pulls you forward when you're shot in the back, and throws you to your seat when you're hit in the face.

Whether or not it'll catch on, only time will tell, and we do have a slight fear about using such a kicking, thrashing controller over long periods of time, but that's not enough to dampen our excitement. Novint's CEO Tom Anderson reckons a European distribution deal should be set-up soon - and we'll be first to test one out thoroughly. Adam Oxford

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