Nintendo Revolution to have VR headset

While Microsoft's Xbox 360 steals a march over Sony's delayed PS3, Nintendo is set to gain universal attention with a revolutionary announcement...

Did you look at the Nintendo Revolution TV remote-style controller with some bemusement and wonder how you're supposed to play complex, next-gen games with it?

You weren't alone. Half of it appears to be missing, with nothing for the other hand to hold on to, and therefore, apparently, only half the necessary controls to play games with.

The controller mimics movements in a 'magic wand' style, so an adventure with Link in Zelda will mean throwing your hand to 'slash' with your 'sword' and potential hospital visits for bystanders while executing combos in Killer Instinct 3.

But rumours that Nintendo is following up previous interactive incarnations like its NES Powerglove and Robot Operating Buddy (ROB) with a Virtual Reality headset for it's new console are causing a stir.

Nintendo is said to be favouring a variation of US-firm eMagin's Z800 3DVisor to deliver "an immersive 3D computing experience" that will track head movements at the same time your hand controller shoots, slashes or swings - reflecting the dual D-pad and joystick setup on contemporary console controllers.

The z800 certainly has its fans, receiving the 2006 CES "Best of Innovations" award in the "Digital Displays" category, a 2006 Design and Engineering Innovations Award in the "Gaming" category, and the Class of 2005 Digital Life "Innovator Award".

Its head tracker comprises three compasses, three gyros, and three accelerometers, and it can track motion on all axes. The headset offers 3D stereovision from high-contrast OLED displays delivering more than 16.7 million colours, and comes complete with hi-fi 'surround' sound headphones.

It weights less than eight ounces and is powered via a USB connection.

At $899 each, price could be an issue, though Nintendo's version is expected to be dramatically priced down.

An unofficial video purporting to show a virtual reality headset for Nintendo's forthcoming console can be seen here.

VR headsets have been around for consumers to play with since the early 1990s, with arcades housing 'Virtuality' machines offering origami-style character graphics, to early 3D PC games such as Descent and Superkarts that listed 'VR Headset' modes in their options.

Nintendo's innovative approach to gaining consumer interest is unlikely to help its Revolution console leap frog Microsoft's Xbox 2 in sales, at least at the start, according to US analyst firm In-Stat.

They say while the relatively early launch of the Xbox 360 will not threaten sales of the PlayStation 3, Microsoft's head start will give it an edge over Nintendo.

Other factors that will boost Xbox 360 over the Revolution are its strong market position in North America and appeal to older gamers, they add.

Between now and 2010, 2006 is expected to be the slowest year for console sales, In-Stat says.

According to In-Stat: "Sales this year are expected to be around 25 million units. This figure will rise to about 39 million next year and hit 42 million the year after."