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Gaming set to get hot, loud and in your face

Aiming to extend the PC-gaming experience beyond the small screen, Surrey, England-based startup Philips amBX (a division of small appliance manufacturer Royal Philips Electronics) has created a new technology to turn kids playtime into a swirling, sensory adventure.
January 1, 2006

Aiming to extend the PC-gaming experience beyond the small screen, Surrey, England-based startup Philips amBX (a division of small appliance manufacturer Royal Philips Electronics) has created a new technology to turn kids playtime into a swirling, sensory adventure.

The technology, which goes by the name amBX, works by synchronizing the action on-screen with the output of other electronic devices such as fans, LED color-controlled lights, heaters and speakers. In essence, the tech helps the game and the peripherals ‘talk’ to each other. So it just might be possible for gamers using an amBX-enabled PC game to feel heat from a connected heater as cars explode into balls of fire on-screen or have gusts of wind from a fan ruffle their hair when a cyber helicopter takes off.

Philips amBX is currently licensing the technology to game makers and peripherals manufacturers with the goal of having products at retail by this fall. The company is also involved in talks to package amBX light-, wind- and noise-making devices together in starter kits as a way to move the new breed of electronics to kids homes. Pricing decisions will be left to game companies and manufacturers, but amBX-enabled games should be at price points affordable for gaming families.

PC games is the target category this year, but chief technology officer David Eves says he wants to incorporate amBX into other platforms such as consoles and other consumer electronics as soon as companies are ready to get onboard. For example, mood-lighting devices could be programmed to work on DVDs and enabled DVD players. The same could apply to toys. ‘We imagine enhancing the idea of play,’ says Eves. ‘Imagine [a toy version of] The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and opening the wardrobe and having Narnia come out at you.’

After the initial range of products gets off the ground, Philips is planning to make a do-it-yourself version of amBX, much like how consumers currently create their own web pages and ring tones via their home PCs. However, Eves says Philips isn’t ruling out the possibility of taking the tech outside the domestic realm. In fact, watching a movie in an amBX-enabled theater would be pretty cool, wouldn’t it?

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