What is it?
I don’t think I can adequately explain what the Novint Falcon is but I’ll give it a try. You may be better served however by checking out the picture on the right. It’s dome shaped, fairly heavy, and sits on your desk on a kind of tripod stand. It has an extendable robot arm-type thingy which you move around in order to control your games. At the end of the robot arm is a small globe with buttons on it, and this can also be fitted with a mock gun which is perfect for first person shooters.
Novint, the company responsible for this innovative controller, call the Falcon a 3D touch product. To be honest, their text doesn’t explain the product any better, but it does mention that as you move the arm around to control the onscreen action, motors in the device feedback on what you should be feeling and provide a mock sense of touch.
Getting Started with the Novint Falcon
The first thing that surprised me about the Falcon was the weight of it. It’s a really heavy piece of equipment, and it’ll occupy a fairly large space on your desk. You plug a cable into your USB port and install the drivers. Then you calibrate it, which is a fairly easy and straightforward process. With that out of the way, you’re ready for a new and unique gaming experience.
One of the main drawbacks with this controller is that you can’t use it with your existing games. Unfortunately games have to be adapted to work with the controller, and at the moment the choice is limited. They are working on an Orange Box version so that you can play Half-Life 2, Portal and Team Fortress 2 with it, and support for a range of other games is in the works. So hopefully the line-up will grow over time.
The controller comes with a pack of small games like ten pin bowling and golf, as well as some basic puzzle games. While the free games aren’t great, they do give you a chance to see what this controller is all about and believe me it takes some getting used to. Novint is looking to revolutionize control mechanisms and there are some nice elements to using the Falcon, but it takes some practice before you can get comfortable with it.
The Falcon seems to be targeted at sports and first person shooter games, as the controller seems especially suited to these types of game. For first person shooters, you can also buy the gun handle add-on which plugs onto the end of the robot arm. This a unique alternative to the mouse and keyboard, allowing you to aim and fire very effectively.
Will It Catch On?
There’s no doubt achieving a real sense of touch through feedback in the controller would be an amazing achievement and could well lead to widespread adoption of the controller, but at the moment I’d expect most people to be put off by the lack of games supported as well as the hefty price tag, which is currently just under $200. The FPS gun handle addition will set you back another $20 unfortunately. As the saying goes, only time will tell if this interesting accessory will be embraced by mainstream gamers.