Seattle-based startup OmniWear has announced a new gaming product called the Arc, a wearable sensor designed to give you a "sixth sense" while playing.
The Arc is worn around the neck, hanging like a low necklace, and provides haptic feedback that tells you things about your surroundings - without the need to access any of the game's code. Instead you pair it with a smartphone that reads the game's mini map directly off the screen. Right now the Arc supports Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends, but the plan is to add support for many more games in the future.
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We tried it with Counter-Strike, with the Arc providing a location-based vibration any time an enemy came within a viewable distance. If one were to pop up behind our right shoulder, that's where the vibration would be felt. It didn't take long to get into the rhythm of it, and it certainly helped us be more vigilant to enemies' whereabouts.
You can also tweak it, changing the intensity of the vibrations, how often they occur, whether they repeat, and so forth. The idea is that there are fewer visual distractions for the wearers, while it should also improve reaction times.
Our first thought was, "Is this technically cheating"? But all the Arc is doing is relaying the information already provided on the mini-map, in a physical way, meaning the players' eyes need never stray to the corner of the screen. It's an advantage, yes, and maybe not something that we'll see being used in competitive eSports tournaments any time soon, but the idea is interesting and could have plenty of other applications in the future beyond tracking other people in mass multiplayer games.
"There's been a lot of interest in a lot of different genres," OmniWear co-founder Ehren Brav told Wareable, who said they'd also been testing it with horror games, and see potential to integrate it in an interesting - read: terrifying - way.
Another interesting application would be virtual reality, and indeed Brav said the Arc was "built to be complimentary to VR". He said that many VR games expect you to know where to look, which can sometimes be confusing, and the Arc could offer prompts for the user.
The way the Arc relies on your smartphone feels like both a benefit and a drawback. It means it could technically work with any game that has a mini map, but it also means affixing your phone to the screen with a mount, which feels clunky.
OmniWear will be selling a mount with the Arc, the two coming together for $150, and available on Kickstarter where OmniWear is looking to raise at least $75k for the Arc. It'll ship in fall 2017, by which time we expect more games will be compatible - the Arc SDK is to be made available to developers so they can integrate it.
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