As if gamers aren't 'immersed' already

Philips' new peripherals go for the all-out experience.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read
That's me!

I'm a New Yorker, and some might say that tech activity in my home city pales in comparison with that of the Bay Area, Seattle or Boston. But that wasn't the case for me today, as I had the opportunity to hop the subway to Grand Central Terminal, walk a few blocks past the historic New York Public Library to a meeting suite in the Bryant Park Hotel, and...play with some sweet new video game equipment.

This was all part of a media tour offered by Philips, to offer us privileged members of the press a chance to demo its new AmBX-enabled peripherals. Haven't heard of AmBX yet? I predict you will soon. Even if these Philips pieces don't catch on, I can see the AmBX technology getting big. Basically, it allows PC game developers to program their software so that peripherals like high-power LEDs, fans and vibrating wrist rests are triggered to complement the action of the game. Consequently, while I watched an AmBX-enhanced version of the "WarHammer: Mark of Chaos" trailer, the visuals were accompanied by blasts of cold air, bright light, enhanced sound and vibration from the "wrist rumbler." (See photo: That's me watching the "WarHammer" trailer.) The lights can also be set up to match the dominant color on the computer screen, which was a really neat addition to the experience when I played a bit of the color-heavy first-person shooter "Far Cry." And when you're done with gaming for the day, the lights and speakers can be used to turn your Windows Media Player library into a disco-lighted dance party.

The reason why I see a lot of potential for AmBX technology is that it could catch on way beyond PC games. Movie studios could theoretically have AmBX coded into DVDs, so that home theaters could be equipped with lighting that automatically shifts with the movie, temperature control (great for bringing "Fargo" to life!) or even vibrating seats (which could raise "Top Gun" to a whole new level). Or TV channels could jump on it, too. I'd be extra pumped for "Lost" every week if the couch rumbled whenever the "monster" showed up or that Pickett guy tasered someone, or if the room temperature was elevated 10 degrees every time Sawyer removed his shirt.

Philips' AmBX peripherals won't go on sale until January, though there are whispers and murmurs circulating that a few preview copies may be available in time for the holidays...if you know where to look. They'll be sold in separate kits that range from $199 to $399, depending on exactly how much sight, sound and sensation you'd like to go for.

(Photo: Caroline McCarthy/Crave)