No one could fail to notice it bears an uncanny resemblance to the Wii remote (Wiimote) and the folks at Performance Designed Products (PDP) claim that the Gametrak Freedom - a new control device set for release on the Xbox 360 - is the most accurate and versatile 3D motion controller on the market.

Supporting up to four wireless handsets, Freedom uses a number of technologies including Ultrasonic 3D position sensing that will determine the handset’s position in space via a transmission of sound inaudible to humans, calculated by the time it takes to travel to the base unit. This means that unlike the Wii control, the Freedom can be used for spatial gaming that they believe will have the potential to create entirely new genres of party games. It will be able to “see” one player throw something towards another player in the room, and it could sense if the other player moves out of its way.

The handsets also use Accelerometers to determine angles of the controller – pitch (forwards and backwards) and roll (left and right tilt). It can also create a basic on-screen pointer with the combined technology.

The aesthetics of the controller are reminiscent of the Xbox, with the grey and white color scheme and a set of basic Xbox 360 buttons. Range for the RF is specced at to up to 30ft (9 meters) while less than 13ft (4.2 meters) of range from the base unit will affect the ultrasonic positioning.

Some have scoffed at the obvious “copy” of the Wiimote. Some have wondered why others haven’t tried to take a slice of the Wii pie earlier. Others are just grateful that they won’t have to fork out extra dough for a Wii that they may or may not play.

The Freedom has the potential to attract a new broader market to the Xbox (and PS3), but that entirely depends on how many people take to it, and the quality of games software developers create. But the major question is, will all this be enough to take on the Wii, or is this a gimmick soon forgotten without the classic family Nintendo games there as support? If it does catch on, the potential for gaming on a more powerful console with a more advanced motion controller may be prove a lure to software developers and then of course, the gamers.

Along with news of the yet-to-be-released Freedom, there is word of another superior remote - the Freedom2 (development codename Liberty). In addition to all the features of the first version, it will include a 3-axis gyroscope and 3-axis magnetometers. The Liberty will not rely on the ultrasonic 3D position sensing alone, but will provide absolute orientation because of its ability to sense true magnetic north and true gravity.

The Freedom will be released with the game Squeeballs, which will also be available on Wii. It's set for release in fall 2009 in the US and reports from IGN state that a Playstation 3 release will possibly surface in a year. No certain news yet on international releases.

Jamilah Le

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