Dublin, Ireland-based OmniMotion Technology has launched a motion sensing solution for the PC and Mac that makes use of a standard webcam rather than forcing consumers to purchase a pricey peripheral. Called Motion-Flow, the proprietary is built into its first playable demo called SUMO which can be downloaded right here.
"Already a United Nations 2011 'World Summit Award' Winner from its open-beta phase, Sumo is a physics-based combat/puzzle game that allows for accurate, motion-control 'gesture recognition' gaming on almost any computer," the company said Friday. "Players use gentle 'Tai-Chi' type moves to guide their character through Sumo School, before taking on a host of enemies in Survival Quests and Challenges."
OmniMotion said that it will launch Motion-Flow in several other titles for the PC and Mac, including an online Sports Simulator, created in conjunction with the Olympic Movement in Europe, to educate and encourage participation in sports among young people. So far there's no indication that Motion-Flow will be used in apps allowing users to manage through the Windows and Mac platforms.
As the SUMO demo shows, the Motion-Flow software uses a built-in or USB-based webcam and can track motion moving left and right, and up and down – in and out has very little effect. The software picks up on slow, deliberate motions and applies them to the on-screen character. Fast movements are ignored, supposedly allowing the user to quickly reposition themselves. An in-demo tutorial actually reveals how the software tracks movement by displaying a live feed of the user and outlining moving body parts with numerous red squares.
As with the Kinect, users can use just a finger, a hand, and even the whole body. In this particular demo, using full body movements meant slamming the ball left and right. This produced the best results when trying to slam opponent balls off the circular platform (it's actually the top of a very long column), but also meant certain death in scenarios when trying to reposition yourself and the software thinks its a delibearate movement.
After testing the demo for a few (challenging) hours, the Motion-Flow technology seems bound by two factors. The first is obviously lighting: the more illumination, the better the response. The ball was difficult to control at times, especially when moving up and down, until the sun moved to a certain spot and blasted the room with extra light through the office window. The ball then seemingly flew across the platform at lightning speeds and took some readjusting of specific movements to refine the overall gameplay.
The second factor may be in the camera's overall resolution: the higher the coverage, the more refined the movement should be. That may be inaccurate, but the movement window seemed rather small for the non-HD webcam used in the test. This became obvious in one specific Sumo School stage where players must move the ball around the perimeter of the platform and trigger all 7 pressure points in 7 seconds without falling off. It was seemingly impossible to complete.
Still, given this is the software's debut, it will be interesting to see how it matures over time. At its present state, the SUMO demo was rather fun but difficult to master in certain conditions. And as previously speculated, playing a motion-sensing game while sitting at a desk doesn't seem like the ideal situation for this type of application, but to our amazement, SUMO felt surprisingly at home on the PC.