An article I wrote for Electronic Products.
The STEM System by Sixense is a 3D modular tracking platform for video games and virtual reality
If you’re a gamer you’ve certainly wondered what it would be like to immerse yourself in virtual reality. This day in age, that doesn’t have to be left to the imagination, because after a successful Kickstarter campaign, the company Sixense released The STEM System, a 3D modular motion tracking platform for video games and virtual reality.
Virtual reality gameplay
The STEM System enables players to naturally and intuitively interact with games by tracking full position and orientation, no matter if it’s at a desktop or throughout an entire room. It supports up to five wireless motion tracking modules, called STEMS, for full position and orientation tracking of the head and hands, the body, or other configurations. STEMS can also be clipped and strapped to the body or any chosen device using a STEM Pack.
As Sixense has previously powered the Razer Hydra PC gaming controller, considered the input device of choice for virtual reality applications, this motion tracking platform is considered the next evolution in Sixense technology. According to the website, advancements for the STEM System include longer range, wireless operation, modular form factor, and better tracking performance at all ranges.
STEMS track the head, hands, body and other configurations. Image via Sixense.
Sixense MotionCreator, the powerful software application that delivers motion gameplay to virtually any published PC game, allows you to play using the intuitive and natural motion control provided by the STEM System. As the Sixense MotionCreator emulates the inputs for which the game was designed, the game is never aware that a new device is being used.
To determine the position and orientation of each STEM to a stationary base, the STEM System uses an ac electromagnetic field, and because Sixense technology doesn’t rely on inertial sensors such as gyroscopes and accelerometers for position tracking, the measured position of each STEM won’t drift over time, no matter how fast or slow you’re moving.
So that it can supply the wireless link between up to five STEMS and the 8-foot electromagnetic field-generating base charging station, the STEM System uses the Nordic nRF51822, a highly flexible multi-protocol SoC by ultra-low-power RF specialist, Nordic Semiconductor. Each module communicates its position and orientation every 4 ms to a USB dongle, which is Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF24LU1+, a highly integrated ultra-low-power RF SoC, that plugs into the host PC and runs the Nordic Gazell 2.4-GHz proprietary RF protocol stack.
Because it’s modular, the STEM System allows users to add further controllers, trackers, and other game-specific peripherals whenever they want. According to Sixense, the advantage of the STEM System over other motion-based wireless controllers is that its electromagnetic field provides highly precise position and orientation tracking with complete fidelity and precision down to the nearest 1 mm (position) and degree (orientation).
What’s to come
Currently, Sixense is developing “MakeVR,” a 3D modeling application for 3D printing that combines an intuitive and natural 3D modeling environment with the STEM System. The company is also working with major game publishers and developers to take advantage of its STEM System motion tracking platform.
For updated information, check out sixense.com.