At last night's Digital Experience event here in New York, I got a chance to sit down with the Novint Falcon--a device that allows you to "feel" and control games in 3D, using force feedback.
The technology is quite impressive--it actually creates the illusion that you are interacting with objects on your screen in 3D. In one of the demos, you use the Falcon to control a virtual hand that interacts with a variety of giant spheres. Each sphere was composed of a different material. Using the knob on the Falcon, you control your virtual hand and "touch" each sphere. The solid sphere wouldn't let you pass your virtual hand through it; however, the sphere made of molasses translated as a gooey, sticky substance. The Falcon comes with 24 mini-games, all tailored to work specifically with the device.
Also available to play was Half Life 2 where the Falcon's knob basically represents game character Gordon Freeman's head. It took a little getting used to, but it definitely had potential--the recoil from the pistol and gravity gun felt very realistic and added a special experience to playing the game. I was also told that adjustments can be made to better suit your sensitivity preferences.
Sound interesting? Well, you better act quick, as the Falcon is only in production for a limited time. This definitely questions the lifespan of the product as well as specific support from developers--why make a game for a device that is no longer in production?
The Falcon began shipping last week and can be purchased directly from Novint for $189.
UPDATE: Earlier this year at CES, our own Veronica Belmont shot a video of her hands-on with Novint Falcon. You'll get a really good idea about how intuitive the force feedback truly is. Enjoy!