CES 2014: STEM System Hands-On

by: John -

Sixense made a name for themselves when they partnered with Razer and produced the Hydra motion control system. It took a different approach than how the Wii did motion controls offering a pretty accurate system for translating your hand movements to the screen. The company decided to go the Kickstarter route with their next system and today I took a look at how far they’ve come.

The STEM System is a much more accurate version of the Hydra that can utilize multiple Stem sensors and it is completely wireless. When I say completely wireless I mean not only are the STEM sensors and controls wireless, but the base unit is as well. There’s an internal battery in the base system and you could theoretically unplug the base unit from the power outlet and place it somewhere else in the room. So if you want the base unit out of the way, you can do so with their latest setup.

To demonstrate a 3 STEM sensor setup, I was put into Portal 2 where I had a control for each hand and one taped on top of an Oculus Rift. Because each hand can now be used separately, you can do things in Portal 2 like having the left hand press buttons or interact with the environment with the right hand bearing the Portal gun.

With the STEM on the top of the Oculus Rift, you could now do things such as duck, look around objects, and blind fire. It offers up more freedom to the control a system that’s limited by a mouse and keyboard. In use, the STEM accurately translated my hand movements and with no perceivable lag. I was able to quickly shake my hand and waggle the Portal gun and see it happening on screen as well. There was never a time the STEM lost track of my hand positions and overall, the experience was really impressive.

Now that it is not tethered to a wire, the freedom of movement over the Hydra really makes for a much better experience. I don’t have to fear making quick and long movements because before, you could easily pull the Hydra’s base system off a table since the cord was short. Now, the STEM System frees you from those worries and you are left with having fun inside the game.

The STEM System can also open up a world for would be 3D modelers or content creators. They demonstrated a program called MakeVR, which lets you use shapes and templates to create 3D objects. You don’t have to be a professional to use the program and MakeVR is made to let you create models using more intuitive controls based off the movement of your hands. Complex objects could be created in a much shorter amount of time and the program allows for really accurate creations with some more advanced tools such as a snapping grid. When done, one can export the file to a 3D printing service so one can bring their digital creation to life.

I’m a Kickstarter of the STEM System and I was truly blown away by how well it worked. The movement felt fluid and playing a game such as Portal 2 with a STEM System was incredibly fun. Seeing the ease of use in creating 3D models using MakeVR and a STEM System was also another impressive sight. Sixense really has improved on the technology they started with the Hydra and the STEM System looks like the next great step in 3D motion control for the PC.

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