PAX East came and went this past weekend (March 26th – 28th) and for those who are unaware of what exactly PAX East was, here’s an excerpt from their Wikipedia page:
The Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) is a semi-annual gamer festival held in Washington state, USA, and Boston, Mass., USA. PAX was created by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, the authors of the Penny Arcade webcomic, because they wanted to attend a show that gave equal attention to console gamers, computer gamers, and tabletop gamers. [Penny Arcade Expo – Wikipedia]
But PAX wasn’t just about games. It was filled with gloriously awesome hardware that can be used to elevate our gaming and help it become a more immersive experience. Whether it was video, audio or plug and play adapters; everything you can imagine was on display for everyone to test drive.
The first stop was at the Turtle Beach booth.
While at the booth, I was first introduced to some familiar sights: the headphones! Turtle Beach is synonymous with superb sound and gaming. I personally love my wireless headset for those late night gaming sessions and absolutely loved what I saw with the newer models. Turtle Beach announced two new headset models: the X11 and the PX21. The PX21 is the most interesting of the two, simply because it allows you to use the same headset for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. Everyone would instantly love anything that can be used across consoles. “The PX21 is essentially two headsets in one—a stereo USB headset for mic communication and an amplified stereo headset for game sound. That means you can independently control chat and game sound from a single control unit regardless of the platform. Whether you’re playing PS3, XBOX or PC games, the PX21 delivers high quality game audio, clear communications and unique features for a competitive edge that can make the difference between winning and losing—all at an affordable price” says Peter Ronick, Director of Marketing.
Additionally, XBox 360 and PC gamers can also consider the X11 for their gaming pleasure. The X11 sports a black and white design motif with circum-aural ear cups, a deep-cushioned headband and long, adjustable boom mic. For added comfort, the ear cups have been made larger with deep fabric-mesh cushions that sit comfortably around the ears, allowing for enhanced game play for longer periods of time as well as an extra-long 16-foot cable makes it easy to move around the room while playing XBox games.
But what was the most compelling piece of hardware showcased by Turtle Beach were the Amigo II and Micro II that can boost the audio in any laptop or PC that doesn’t have a sufficient sound board. My eyes and ears lit up when I heard this. Both devices are extremely small but pack a huge punch!
The Amigo II USB sound card adds a stereo output and mic input to a Mac or PC and converts a standard headset into a USB headset. Because it uses a USB digital connection, the Amigo II isolates the audio signal from the noisy electronics inside a PC or laptop to provide higher-quality sound. With a single USB connection, the Amigo II lets you conveniently add another sound port to your PC or laptop for easy access wherever you go. The stereo output can be used for connecting powered speakers, headphones or an external recording device. The microphone input can be used for connecting an external microphone or the boom mic on a headset. Amigo is a great accessory for laptop owners who want to enjoy high-quality audio on the road or at home. [Turtle Beach – Audio Advantage Amigo II Product Page]
The Micro II is pretty much similiar to the Amigo II except for the fact that you can insert the included TOSLINK adapter into the stereo jack to convert it into a S/PDIF digital optical output, allowing you to connect your Mac or PC to the optical digital input on home theater systems, digital speakers and other digital audio devices. This digital connection lets you enjoy DVD or streaming digital movies on your Mac or PC with 5.1 channel Dolby® Digital or DTS™ surround sound on your home theater system. [Turtle Beach – Audio Advantage Micro II Product Page]
All in all, there are some good things available from the folks at Turtle Beach this year and here are the price points for all the products talked about above:
- The Ear Force X11 headset has an MSRP of $59.95
- The Ear Force PX21 headset has an MSRP of $79.95
- The Audio Advantage Micro II has an MSRP of $24.95
- The Audio Advantage Amigo II has an MSRP of $24.95
Afterwards, it was onto the Nvidia booth and see what they have to offer.
Since CES, the buzz on the street has been around 3D and Nvidia had the most interesting displays of 3D technology. I personally don’t like the thought of 3D gaming because I wear glasses and sometimes I don’t want to wear contacts just to game. But that’s just me. Nonetheless, Nvidia’s displays were massive! The most interesting was the Battlefield Bad Company 2 3D set up. I could watch as people were getting shot and for a split second I checked myself for bullet holes. Wondering if I was an innocent casualty of the carnage going on on-screen. Yes, I thought I was getting shot at. People were getting immersed into the gameplay and were momentarily teleported to the marsh fields that the game was taking place in. I’m not 100% sure if it was just the fact of playing the game or the 3D aspect but people looked to be enjoying themselves. It might have helped a little that Battlefield Bad Company 2 is a pretty good game.
But there were also 3D notebooks on display. Again, I’m not sure why anyone would want 3D gaming on the go but it was there and it was a similar experience to the PC gameplay. Even though it was a smaller medium, I definitely felt like I was paying more attention to the mini-game that was running on the notebook. However, since the game on display wasn’t a first person shooter, I didn’t feel like I was teleported anywhere or as if anything was being projected towards me. Even though it wasn’t a truly compelling experience, it was an interesting experience nonetheless.
Everything was powered by the GeForce line of graphic cards. They were able to provide total immersion allowing games, movies and photos to enter a new dimension with NVIDIA 3D Vision technology. Brought stunning gaming effects through cutting-edge Microsoft DirectX 11 graphics and NVIDIA® PhysX® technology and stunning graphics.
And with all the controversy being brought up during the panels about 3D gaming. It was interesting to see where the technology could be utilized. And even though it’s not for everyone, me included, it will be interesting to see if this catching on or if this will go the way of the Virtual Boy.
And finally, there’s Immerz, this pretty cool thing that I came across while idly walking through the Expo Hall.
Immerz is this interesting plug and play adapter that you connect to your console and place on yourself like a necklace. The device sort of simulates the vibrating feedback that you would get from your controller; similiar to the dual shock functionality on the PlayStation controllers. Only difference here is that the device is placed on your body versus being restricted to your hands. Similarly, it was able to vary the intensity of the vibrations. So, pair that with some noise canceling headphones and you would have an experience that they refer to as “emotional surround sound”.
The technology is platform-independent and works with any device that has an audio output. The portable, lightweight device sits comfortably over the user’s shoulders. Using entirely new acousto-haptic technology, the unit sends low-frequency vibrations into the chest cavity. The result? Users actually feel the experience. Gamers, in particular, benefit from KOR-fx because of its unique ability to provide directional feedback, creating an uncanny “7th Sense” awareness of where the next move is coming from, which can mean the difference between victory and defeat in a competitive virtual environment. [Immerz.com – About]
The folks from Immerz expressed the fact that they are extremely interested into providing a more immersive experience by working with game developers to incorporate their technology into the game. What everyone noticed was the fact that the feedback from the device didn’t directly correlate to the action taking place on screen. This is due to the fact that the plug and play device was independent to the game so all it could do was vibrate at the obvious parts of gameplay. However, after teaming up with game devs, they will be able to cue up the vibrations according to the emotions that they would like to intensify while playing through.
I honestly can’t wait till that happens!
But all in all, it’s absolutely great to be a gamer! The hardware community is working hard on transforming your gaming. The only question remains, which will be the most compelling and worthwhile experience?