Shake Hands with the Future...


The state of the game is changing. The number of titles being shown in E3 or utilizing motion (be it PlayStation's Move, Xbox 360's Kinect, Wii's MotionPlus or Sixense on the PC) makes it clear that controls are changing, as is our perception of gaming, in general. What's not going away, however, is the need for accuracy, speed or customization - especially with the continued growth of professional gaming, where it's not just "nice" to have deadly speed and accuracy, it's a necessity.

There have been glove-based gaming interfaces before. In fact, back when I was in high-school, I made one myself. Shortly thereafter, Nintendo's PowerGlove would hit the shelves, making perhaps a larger impact on pop-culture than its sales would warrant. Since that time, there have been a few different gloves to hit the market, such as RealityQuest's Glove controller for the PlayStation, but none of these developed any real staying power. One reason behind the lackluster sales of these products was that they were, generally, difficult to use. They were bulky and awkward, generally taking the approach of a hardware controller that your hand slips into. These weren't gloves, so much as gauntlets. Heavy as controllers (or more so), these controllers got in the way, trading out a unique, one handed approach to playing a game for the use of your hand for pretty much anything else until after you were done playing. The second drawback of previous glove controller designs is that even when they actually worked, their design was intended to replace a gamepad and they were limited in compatibility to a single system, typically getting little to no support from game developers, resigning them to life as an awkward, yet interesting, spectacle, belonging less in a computer technology museum and more in, perhaps, a technology travelling circus.

In 2004, Brent Baier, a recently graduated computer programmer, began his own exploration into the development of a new type of gaming glove, armed with concept art and ideas, $2,000 in scholarship funds and a package of Nike golf gloves.

"I worked in my little apartment night and day just trying to perfect this crazy idea, holding my breath as I tapped my fingers together and watched things happen on-screen at the slightest movement of my hand," says Brent, founder of The Peregrine and now CEO of the company. "It was magic."

I met with Brent Baier at E3 this year and we discussed, in depth, the history, current state and future of The Peregrine glove. It is true that other glove interfaces have gone the way of the Dodo, but, Iron Will's Peregrine differs from these other glove controllers in several ways, all of which give The Peregrine a decided advantage.

First of all, The Peregrine isn't a controller that wraps around your hand; it's a glove that allows you to interface with and control computers and consoles. You can still drink a soda while wearing The Peregrine. You can drive a car while wearing The Peregrine. And, for that matter, these actions shouldn't cause The Peregrine to fire off random information. Sending a command to the system is only caused by touching specific areas of The Peregrine glove to other areas, primarily fingertips, the sides of the fingers and places on the palm.

The ability to do other things while wearing The Peregrine without removing it or sending unintentional data is an important aspect behind Iron Will's U.S. military contracts. That's right, Iron Will has U.S. military contracts, where high-tech soldiers will use these input devices with wearable computer systems one minute, then climb up a rope in the next instant, without removing The Peregrine. If you have any hesitation about using a Peregrine to play the latest Call of Duty or other modern warfare game, thinking it's unrealistic, your opinion might change when you think about soldiers actually utilizing The Peregrine in modern warfare. For those of you who aren't familiar with the grueling process that must be gone through and strict compliances that must met in order to get an electronic device accepted in a military contract, allow me to reassure you that The Peregrine would have to be reliable, durable, accurate, easy to use and not get in your way.

One of the genius design aspects of The Peregrine, however is its compatibility. The Peregrine attaches to a computer (or console) via a USB cable and is recognized as a keyboard (HID - Human Interface Device). This approach means that just about any device that can accept a USB keyboard can be used with The Peregrine. The Peregrine is currently being marketed for use with the Windows, Mac and Linux, but there's no reason you couldn't plug one in and use it with any PS3 or Xbox 360 game that is keyboard compatible. The only issue would be configuring The Peregrine's touch zones and assigning them the values you want, which is done via software which, currently, is available for Windows, but not for PS3 or Xbox 360. However, once The Peregrine is configured, its configurations are stored on-board, so it would be ready, at that point, to plug into your PS3 or Xbox 360 and play with The Peregrine. Brent Baier informed me that the Peregrine had successfully been tested with various systems, including a Linux box.

However, the true potential of The Peregrine goes beyond just keyboard input; the raw data inside the glove would offer several different analog inputs with 1024 distinct points on each spring-like trace. Currently, these lines are mapped such that each one has three to five different zones that are adjustable, both in the location of these ranges and the required accuracy to trigger each zone. This same data, however, could be divided into more zones or treated as one large slider control using the same hardware, if Iron Will - or some game or software developer partnering with Iron Will in the future - decided to write a driver that allowed The Peregrine to be used in this manner. The good news is that, since The Peregrine has upgradeable firmware built into it, current owners would be able to easily upgrade their firmware, if necessary, and enjoy these updates too.

The Peregrine has been tested in tournaments by the pro gaming team Evil Geniuses. Evil Geniuses' Pu Liu, who has been known to show off his mad skills by using The Peregrine glove behind his back, said, "The (Peregrine) Glove is way faster. I program my attack commands on my thumb and fingers, and there’s no reaching for a key or looking down to see where the hotkeys are – I can just touch my fingers. I shave a quarter- to a half-second off my game with the (Peregrine) Glove. No looking down for the keys – I just use muscle memory.”

For those of you who might be afraid that The Peregrine could simply be the next glove-based gaming peripheral to become an obscure movie reference, take heart: The Peregrine's use goes beyond gaming and even military applications. Graphic designers and artists can use The Peregrine to switch between the various actions they use in their art software, allowing them to do their jobs more quickly and comfortably, and to stop thinking about the keyboard and to focus on their creativity. The Peregrine could also be useful for drafting and 3D modeling, medical professionals, people with speech problems, music composition and performance... it could even be used as the next wave of communication input techniques, replacing the ever-so-awkward texting interfaces in today's smart phones. Used in tandem with a second glove, a real keyboard replacement for typing becomes a very real possibility. In fact, The Peregrine can be useful for pretty much anything you do with a computer; it's basically limited to your creativity.

As you may have guessed, I greatly enjoyed my discussion with Brent Baier on the ins and outs of The Peregrine glove technology. According to Baier, we should be getting a Peregrine glove in-house to put through its paces in the near future, so check back for a thorough hands-on (hands-in?) review of The Peregrine in the coming weeks.

(...Personally, I can't wait!)

The Peregrine Glove
Iron Will Technologies