Forget next-gen consoles; feast your eyes (and limbs) on these immersive inputs!

It’s an exciting time for gamers around the globe, the current generation of consoles is at an end (what a generation it’s been!) and we’re about to splash our hard-earned cash on the systems which we hope to bring us a decade of joy.

But it’s not just a great time for gamers. This generation is about to see a range of innovative new input technologies which could usher in an era of immersion never before seen (or felt). So enough with the teasing, let’s get into a few...

First in the line-up is obvious, the Oculus Rift. Virtual Reality tried (and failed) to gain widespread appeal in the 90s – with devices such as Nintendo’s doomed “Virtual Boy”.

Starting life as a Kickstarter project, the Oculus team went on to become a “Best of E3” nominee and shares the backing and excitement from both independent developers and industry heavyweights – including Valve, id Software, and Epic Games.

What could make this venture a success? Apart from the wide support, the technological barriers have since been overcome which prevented a device that meets consumer expectation. With a wide field of view, high resolution display, and ultra-low latency head tracking - the Rift provides a truly immersive experience.

It’s also not too ambitious in its implementation – previous attempts tried to add in gloves for gripping objects, and trackers to follow your position in real-time. Always a recipe for disaster when you’re strolling round with a headset covering your vision...

They were also expensive. Oculus hopes to bring Rift to market at “a price everyone can afford” - whilst development kits are already out to play with.

Oculus will pair up with your standard controller, which the next generation of consoles – particularly the Xbox – comes with many notable enhancements. Most aren’t particularly “game-changing” however, simply modifications to design – except One.

The Xbox One will be placing motors directly under one of the most sensitive parts of your body - your fingertips. This allows developers to pull gamers further into gameplay – feel the rev of that engine in Forza, feel the chamber launch a bullet from that sniper, feel the touch of a ball in Fifa...

Then of course is the brand-new Kinect. Whilst the first attempt was flawed in its requirement of a large free space, perfect lighting conditions, and focus on the “casual” gamer – the second attempt looks far more promising.

It’s not any of the waving your arms at the screen to slice fruit which excites me, but the subtle uses. For example, you’re crouched down behind a wall in a shooter – still using your beloved controller – with a natural tilt to the side you can peek in/out of cover.

Combine Oculus Rift, Xbox One’s new tactile controller, and the latest Kinect – that’s an immersive experience. Imagine what it would be like playing a title like TitanFall?

Still not impressed? Okay, let’s add in second-screen experiences. Set to become a large part of consumer lives over the next year, they open up even more opportunities. Already demoed by several game developers; they add in functionality such as the ability to see team mates on a map in real-time, or remotely alter gameplay.

If you’re not sharing my excitement for next-generation inputs by now, I’m afraid there’s little hope. My last effort may not even become reality – at least for a few years – but it looks incredible.

Microsoft’s ‘Illumiroom’ can be best described as “Kinect on steroids” although instead of just receiving input, it actually scans the room around you and projects a new environment onto the walls and objects in your playing space.

Is your character in an underwater level? Maybe you’ll see a shark creeping up on your bedroom wall. Are you in a heated gunfight? Bullets could put “holes” in your back wall.

Unfortunately this is currently one of the incredible innovations found in Microsoft Research’s labs, and isn’t likely to see a consumer release soon due to cost.

Albert Penello, head of product planning for Xbox One, in an interview with AusGamers said: "It’s really super-neat if you’re in the lab and you’ve got Microsoft money and you could totally set up this awesome lab, but... we looked at it, but for an average customer it’s, like, thousands of dollars."

There are plenty of incredible, immersive, innovative new technologies coming up. Are you excited?

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