Portico: Changing the Tablet Computing Game

For console gamers, a huge attraction and benefit of the experience comes in the form of wireless, motion controlled and near hands-free game controls. As gaming also thrives on other platforms, it is only fair to ask, will the same technology become mainstream on one of today’s most popular computing devices – the tablet?

When the Nintendo Wii was released a few years back, one of its hottest and most dominant selling points was the wireless and motion sensitive control system in the form of the Wii controller and nunchuck. Jump ahead a few years and you’ll note that Microsoft introduced the Kinect, a long awaited camera based system for the Xbox 360, and around that same time Sony released its own motion and camera based control setup for the PlayStation 3, the PlayStation Move. Prior to these control systems, games didn’t offer much in the form of physical interaction and their implementation has made gaming experiences more personal.

Sidestep from these console advancements for a moment and imagine similar gaming controls elsewhere. During this same time of console growth, other areas of computing and entertainment technology have also making strides. Tablet computing (and gaming) has been growing rapidly in popularity. On a similar front to the tablet, Microsoft’s own tabletop technology, Surface – a table top touch screen based system, delivered additional touch technology experiences for group environments. Just as touch has revolutionized the computing experience, he marriage of adding additional sense controlled technologies may change the way tablets are used in the future, particularly for gaming.

The Intel Labs Portico project may in fact be the first steps in that leap towards hands-free motion sensed control for tablets. Combining a tablet computer with mounted cameras for motion tracking, movement can be detected both on a physical surface (such as the table top) around the tablet, and on the tablet surface (screen) itself. This allows users to interact with physical objects to manipulate software activity on-screen. Intel’s recent demonstration of this up and coming technology displayed entertainment uses such as maneuvering a virtual on-screen spaceship by simply moving and navigating a physical version in various up-down, left-right directions on a table-top. Interaction with on-screen elements was also demonstrated via a child’s stuffed animal. By controlling the physical animal and having it visit virtual areas on screen, such as a feeding spot, players would be able to expreince having a virtual pet on a whole new level.

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