Revolution Controller Revealed?

Engadget has a purported sneak peak at the Nintendo Revolution controller.

This is perhaps the most important point:

“The controller part acts like a mouse as you move it around in 3D space.”

I’ve recently been talking with Igor, one of my co-workers, about the human-machine interface and this was one of the points that he made.  He wasn’t really that impressed with the Windows Vista UI improvements since it really doesn’t change the way we interact with the programs.

As the discussion continued, I started forming a mental picture in my head of what it would be like if we interacted with our programs in a 3D manner.  Imagine that each application is a room floating in space.  If you want to use an application, you summon the room and walk into it (my mental picture is of a room moving towards a person while the person is also moving towards the room).  Inside the room, the interfaces are the surfaces of the objects in the room.  If you need to use two applications at once, you kinda wave your hand and a wall opens up into another room which serves as the context of the second application.  So for example, a user using Excel might have a different spreadsheet on each wall (it may not be a four-sided room).  Now the user wants to load a graph into a Word document.  The user would “extrude” the wall and kinda create another room which would be the context for Word.  The graph would be a painting or a wall poster which I could just move into the Word “room” and put it on a wall where I have a document loaded.

Then it hit me.  It’s not that it’s impossible to do this now.  We can easily create highly detailed 3D worlds and render them on mid-high end PCs (Doom III, Halo, Battlefield 2), it’s that the primary human-machine interface, the mouse and keyboard, were not designed to interact with a 3D world. 

I mentioned this to Igor and he said “Yah, that’s exactly the problem” (or something along that line) and started to move his hand around as if he were controlling a mouse in 3D space instead of a 2D plane.  It’s a catch-22 situation since no one will make a fully 3D interface until there is a proper interface and no one will waste time developing this interface unless there is some application for it.

So, to me at least, this controller could really be “revolutionary”.  The first mouse came into existence in 1964 and has remained pretty much the same since.  Yeah, it may be wireless and use lasers now, but the mouse is a limiting factor in the ways we design our software interfaces because it only understands 2D space.

After reading more about the controller at IGN, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is totally badass.  I mean, think about having two of these controllers in a fighting game (DoA, Soul Caliber, etc.).  One controller would be used for attacking.  You can slash, jab, and punch by moving the controller in 3D space.  With the second controller, you control the viewport; if you move the controller forward very quickly, you dash in that direction.  Move it to the right, and you turn.  Hold down a button on the controller and move it to the right, and you strafe.  The possibilities are mind-numbing and if Nintendo can pull this off (get lots of 3rd party developer support), it would truly revolutionize the way we interface with our machines.

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