VR firms showcase new gaming tech at CES 2019

By Nick McCool
BU News Service

Gaming companies have arrived at CES with a number of innovations for 2019, with many of the most memorable coming from the worlds of Virtual and Augmented Reality.

The new releases include foot paddles to control the locomotive movement of VR avatars, arcade games, and a full-body suit with motion-tracking technology. 

At the CES 2019 Trends to Watch presentation Sunday night, Ben Arnold, senior director of Innovation and Trends for the Consumer Technology Association, said that while gaming remains one of the most promising fields for AR and VR, the industry has not reached a consensus on the right hardware for the job.

“As great as VR is for gaming, I think we’re still in the early stages of what that looks like,” Arnold said in an interview with BU News Service.

Stanislas Chesnais, CEO of VR hardware company 3dRudder, said meeting the challenge of content creation will drive the industry toward VR.

“VR is a way to escape the normal world,” Chesnais said.

3dRudder unveiled their new foot-controlled VR device for PlayStation VR, a $119 offering available for pre-order, with delivery expected in early April.  Chesnais believes the product allows easier, more fluid movement through the virtual world.

Wearing their VR headset and holding a controller in each hand, users place both feet on the paddle and walk through their virtual environment.

“The overall impression is very natural,” Chesnais said.

The 3dRudder for PlayStation VR. (Nick McCool / BU News Service)

Another VR company, Cybershoes, promoted their own way to explore in-game.  Their package includes slipper-like sensors for both feet, along with a chair and carpet, for $399.

The Austrian organization’s shoes are compatible with PC VR experiences through the content vendor Steam.  They hope to increase compatibility to PlayStation VR.

VRLeo offers a different kind of Virtual Reality experience.  Their new systems, the Leo and Scorpio, are designed for use in arcades. 

The Leo, which sells for $8,000, features a drop-down VR headset that self-disinfects after every use.  Users stand before a screen and can play a variety of games, from first-person shooters to programs featuring increasingly difficult patterns of blocks that must be cut in half with laser swords. 

A CES attendee plays the arcade game Leo. (Nick McCool / BU News Service)

The Scorpio, a $7,000 piece that appears similar to a spaceship, sits viewers down for another first-person shooter.  Players shoot down spacecraft and observers can track their progress with an outward-facing screen on the front of the machine. 

VRLeo CEO Patty Lui stands with the Scorpio as a CES attendee samples the machine. (Nick McCool / BU News Service)

One VR gaming solution has not yet reached the consumer market.  Teslasuit is a London-based company that makes a full-body suit, equipped with motion-capture technology and biometric sensors. 

The suit pairs with VR technology to deliver users an immersive experience.  It provides haptic sensations of contact, such as a blow in the case of a combat simulation. 

“There’s a variety of feelings people can experience, from a mild touch to a really strong punch,” said Sergei Nossoff, CEO of Teslasuit (no relation to the well-known electric car company). 

Nossoff said the suit sells only to other companies presently.  They focus on training simulation programs for clients from commercial businesses to medicine and the military. 

However, Nossoff acknowledges the potential the suit has in the gaming industry, and plans to integrate it into gaming platforms by 2023. 

Innovations on display at CES expanded beyond AR and VR.  Gaming accessory company Arozzi boasted their new Star Trek-edition Verona Pro gaming chairs and Arena Legero gaming desks, fresh off their new licensing partnership with CBS. 

“Star Trek is very popular within the gaming community,” said Ulyana Poteshkina, marketing manager for Arozzi.  The chairs retail for $399, while the desks sell for $329. 

Arozzi’s new Star Trek edition Verona Pro gaming chair and Arena Legero gaming desk. (Nick McCool / BU News Service)

Gaming hardware group Razer showed their new Razer Turret keyboard and mouse bundle for XBOX One, complete with a mouse pad, for $249.99.  The wireless set is optimized for the traditionally controller-based platform. 

The new Razer Turret keyboard and mouse bundle for XBOX One.

This hardware hits the show floor after a panel discussion given by seven AR/VR and gaming industry insiders Monday morning. The talk, Gaming: The Killer AR/VR/MR App, discussed which game will become the next great application for the technology.

Laura Martin, an analyst for Needham and Company, underlined Wall Street’s enthusiasm about the success of AR games such as Pokemon Go, as well as traditional games including Fortnite.

Yet as Jenna Seiden, a consultant for Lumo Labs, pointed out, the technology is still evolving.

“We want to make the hardware disappear.”

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