If you've ever played a competitive video game online, chances are you've learned firsthand how important situational awareness can be. In simulators such as ArmA II or DCS: A-10C Warthog where every bit of information counts, being able to see what's around you is even more important.
The problem is, most games lock your point of view into staring directly ahead, straight over your weapon or dashboard, which can obscure important details such as instrument panels in an airplane. Looking around requires moving your entire character or using unwieldy hotkeys to move your camera around independently of your body or vehicle ... or at least it used to.
Enter NaturalPoint's TrackIR 5. The TrackIR 5 is essentially an infrared (IR) sensor that allows for you to move your in-game camera with natural head movements.
The TrackIR consists of two major parts: the sensor itself, which mounts to the top of your monitor, and a series of IR reflective dots that you can attach to a baseball cap or headset (for those who demand extra precision, NaturalPoint also offers an LED-based tracking accessory, the TrackClip Pro). This allows gamers to take advantage of NaturalPoint's “6 Degrees of Freedom” (6DOF) technology. This helps you move your in-game perspective by changing your head's real-life yaw, pitch, roll, or position along an X/Y/Z axis. TrackIR's software also allows you to change how much or how little your actual head movements impact in-game movement, so you can create a "dead zone" to keep your camera steady in most cases, but also pan the camera with ease by making user-defined amounts of head movement.
Now, I'm sure some of you are thinking, "Well, that's really cool, but how can that help me play my games?" It's quite simple -- using natural head movements to control camera movement increases immersion, and improved immersion means you're likely to perform much better while playing.
With TrackIR, players of ArmA II and its wildly popular DayZ mod can now easily scan their surroundings for ambushes without moving their entire character or swinging their weapon around, which would make them very easily spotted by enemies. Virtual fighter aces in IL-2 Sturmovik or Lock-On: Modern Air Combat can now manually track their adversaries at close-range by following their movements through the cockpit glass (as a big fan of combat flight simulators, believe me when I say this is a huge advantage in a dogfight!). Digital aviators training to get their wings in real life using Flight Simulator X or X-Plane can use TrackIR to view vital instrument panels with ease, or even lean forward, causing the game to zoom in so they can better orient themselves for landing.
The TrackIR 5 cannot be used as a regular (non gaming) mouse though, so if you'd like to get the functionality of the TrackIR system in a hands-free mouse, be sure to take a look at NaturalPoint’s SmartNav 4 AT. However, with so many possible in-game applications and a massive list of TrackIR Enhanced™ games that continues to grow, hardcore gamers owe it to themselves to check out the TrackIR 5.
View a video featuring the TrackIR5, shown in conjunction with ArmA2 by Bohemia Interactive: