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Hands-on with Microvision's pico projector-equipped gun controller

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You remember a few months ago there was a video going around of this thing, and I called it out for being derivative of the Redneck Techie’s Game Gun? Well, that criticism still stands, but after testing this controller out, I have to say that whether it’s the only game gun on the market or not, this thing is awesome.

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Basically what you’ve got is a gun-shaped controller with a lightweight, laser-based projector (a modified version of their SHOWWX) mounted on top, which uses a mirror vibrating harmonically and a few lasers to create an 848×480 image that’s always in focus. That’s key: there’s no focus at all, no matter what. The unit itself is about iPhone-sized:

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The gun is equipped with motion detectors that let you go as far as you want left, right, up, or down. Another version has tilt as well, which I found would be very handy in FPSes with lean controls. There’s a d-pad in the front of the gun and a few buttons, one of which locks the viewpoint so you can move the gun without moving the camera in-game. This is for when you reach the edge of your room or screen and need to look further: you hit the button, drag back to the middle of the screen, and again you have space to move around.

Basically, it’s all in the video, though of course you can’t see what I’m doing because it was pitch dark and the camera wouldn’t pick up the image in the light. Brightness wasn’t a problem; the image was good, but you will want to be in a dark or semi-dark area to use it.

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The main thing that impressed me was that there was absolutely no lag between my movements and the display. To be clear: not “very little lag” as even the next-generation motion controllers have, but no lag at all. It really helped with the immersive feel to not feel that the game was “catching up” to my movements. Microvision told me that part of this was the projector, part of it was the way they’d set it up, but at any rate there was another benefit of the laser projection: quick movements won’t blur or separate the colors, since each frame is rendered almost instantaneously. Add that to the always-in-focus aspect and you’ve got a pretty killer setup.

IMG_0202Of course, this was all pre-production equipment and so on, so we can actually expect things to be a little better (the wireless version, for instance, still had lag, which they assured me will be mostly eliminated). Oh, and the wireless version uses “clips” as batteries. How cool is that? Ammo!

Man, I’ve gone on a bit here. But really, this thing was extremely cool. Having to actually look up with the gun, for instance, and have things above you actually be above you, was awesome. My reservations, of course, remain: not many people have a room well-suited to this kind of controller, but many people do have small rooms that will probably do well enough. I got a great experience on a hastily-erected sheet hung in the corner of a meeting room.

But my skepticism has been conquered. This type of controller is going to be a lot of fun to use, and I hope Microvision gets their due, since they seem to have it pretty well together ahead of the others.

You can find out more at Microvision’s site. The SHOWWX is the actual projector used, and it’s for real, but the gun and all that are still in prototype form.