Virtual reality and gaming have come a long way since the days of Nintendo’s lackluster Virtual Boy. One of the most promising systems set to hit the market is OculusVR’s Oculus Rift, which already has a slew of game companies scrambling to derive support for the device in upcoming titles. When paired with Virtuix’s Omni treadmill the VR aspect is heightened considerably for total immersion in games. To a lesser (but considerably popular in their own right) extent peripherals such as Microsoft’s Kinect sensor and Playstation’s Move provide users a limited aspect for VR gaming through the use of full-body tracking that usually results in controlling an on-screen avatar. These however do not actually put ‘you’ in the action unless you are a modder and have used the sensors to derive your own VR system. Other companies have taken VR (or AR depending on how you look at it) and transitioned over to less bulky headsets with not-so-stylish eyewear such as Google Glass. While the headgear was designed for augmented reality purposes developers have created gaming apps for use with them (albeit not the greatest ever seen). Others are capitalizing on the notion of AR eyewear such as meta’s meta 1 headset for computer and VR applications. Unlike Google Glass, the meta 1 sports two individual screens (Epson’s BT-100 Moverio) with a resolution of 960 X 540 for each eye for a stereoscopic overlay. A SoftKinetic DepthSense camera sits on top of the eyewear, which provides an AR overlay complete along with gestural support. The meta 1 is currently powered by a battery pack (worn on the waist) and features both HDMI and USB connections and uses Windows (what flavor is unknown but probably better than 98) as its primary OS. Meta has recently successfully funded their meta 1 glasses on Kickstarter (surpassing their goal of $100,000 with almost $200,000) and already features its first game (not really a game) called GameDraw3D which allows users to draw in a 3D environment using your hands and fingers. Those who have pledged $550 or more will receive the AR glasses along with the DepthSense camera their SDK for developing their own apps. While the potential is there for the meta 1 to become a good gaming platform it has yet to be used as such which is fine for some gamers who prefer a more retro approach to their gaming.
The Iam8bit console, art... prices at $2,400 (via Travis Chen & Iam8bit)
Those who prefer old-school retro gaming can take a look at Travis Chen’s Iam8bit Entertainment System, which was recently displayed at Iam8bit’s art show held in Los Angeles. Travis, a professional game developer, constructed the console as an art piece for the show, which is centered around video game art. The console is actually a custom-made PC housed inside of a laser-cut bamboo enclosure running the MAME emulator. The enclosure features an LED display that is programmed with ASCII text as well as retro-style buttons positioned on top of the console that display multiple images, text and other tricked-out visuals depending on the button pushed. The arcade-style controllers were also customized with bamboo and can be configured for any ROM available for the MAME platform. The console was offered for sale at the show for $2,400 but it’s not yet known if there was an actual buyer. If bought, Travis states that he will customize the box to the buyer’s preference. Compared to the new Xbox One and PlayStation 4 the Ian8bit-ES is an overpriced emulator that can’t hold a candle to the power offered by the upcoming consoles. On the other hand, those looking to play hundreds of classic games with a one of a kind custom-made console will find their reminiscing more than worth the price when playing their childhood games. Plus, art always has a subjective price.
Some may feel one console just isn’t enough for their retro gaming needs and would prefer a custom-made box such as the one Bacteria (handle) designed called Project Unity. That console/s features an impressive 15 fully functional boxes and 3 emulators all in one enclosure with a modded controller that can be paired with any system. While his gaming system isn’t for sale, another option is to wait for the upcoming release of Hyperkin’s Retron 5 console, which is currently being developed. As the name implies, the emulation console will feature 5 physical slots for NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, Famicom and Gameboy Advance cartridges (as well as several others) in either PAL or NTSC format without any compatibility issues. One of the more enticing aspects of using the Retron 5 is the fact that it has 3 controller ports on its side so users can plug in the original Nintendo, SNES or Genesis controllers to play the games. Users can also use the controller they most prefer to game even if playing on a different console (i.e.: using a Genesis controller to play NES games). The box will also come with a wireless (Bluetooth enabled) controller outfitted with a Microswitch Directional Pad with a total of 11 buttons (6 on the face, 2 on its top, start and select buttons and a home button) along with two programmable macro buttons. The Retro 5 goes beyond the typical emulation systems such as being able to tweak the settings such as aspect ratios, filtering options, save-game states and even allows users to enter cheats (GameShark anyone?). The console reportedly runs on a customized Android ROM, which allows for system and software updates for compatibility issues that may arise and allows for a virtual-console setting for interaction with cartridge settings (play, pause, etc.). While the console is still in its development stage, the company is looking for an autumn release (2013) at a retail price of less than $100, which is great for those looking to retro-game on a budget.
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