Again, a Razer product I’ve seen twice in the past year that may yet come to fruition. The Hydra, previously known as Sixense by it’s development team of the same name, is a motion-gaming controller that instead of using accelerometers (like the Nintendo Wii) or a camera (like the Sony Playstation Move), uses a magnetic field that, according to Razer and Sixense, is far more accurate than the technology behind the gaming giant’s controllers.

Why? Because using a magnetic field, the base can read the controllers in perfect 1:1 motion within at least a 20 foot radius. It requires no cameras, no accelerometers, and no expensive hardware or software. And from what I’ve seen, for the third time now, it still works great.

But as I found out, the Sixense guys are actually bastards. They’ve been playing Portal 2 for months now, testing their controller out with the game. What the hell, I want to play Portal 2! No, they’re great guys, and Valve has seemingly given them free reign on the PC version to make the game exciting to play with the Hydra. Nobody was allowed to play Portal 2 at CES except for Sixense employees showing off the controllers, but I did get my hands on the Hydra.

The Original Sixense Controllers, as seen at CES 2010

The controllers themselves are wildly different from what they were a year back. As you can see above, they no longer follow the original rounded design, and rid of the glossy surface to give a more striking, sharper aesthetic. The looks please, though the feel is…light. The Hydra is expected to release – at some point – in two models, wired and wireless. Only the wired ones were available on the show floor, and they were far too light, just a tad heavier than the Wii Nunchuk controllers. The wire sticking out of the back gave some finger support, but it was just weird to feel a cable sticking out the back of the controller. That’s not how gamepads are supposed to work.

Thankfully the current model is still in development, so this is by no means a finalized product. And while these controls are pretty unique, I can’t really think of a way that they’ll succeed considering not the competition, but the consumer. Unless they go for a low price, maybe $60 at the most, I can’t see PC gamers picking up a controller like this. Valve doesn’t put out enough games to warrant it, and no other developers have been announced to be interested or working with Razer or Sixense. At the same time, the reason motion controls don’t work on a PC is because PC gaming is a sitting down, bent-over-the-keyboard endeavor, not a get-up-and-move activity.

Assuming the price is right, and Razer actually releases the Hydra sometime soon (since Portal 2 will release in April), the Hydra could be promising. Or it could be a dud and blow up in Razer’s face. Or, like so many new technologies today, it could have a slow start and build on a community of freelance developers who like the technology and create new applications for it. We’ll just have to wait and see.

James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.