TrackIR 3-Pro by NaturalPoint
ago I was introduced to a device that I called the biggest
advancement in flight simulation hardware since the introduction
of the hat switch. NaturalPoints
TrackIR revolutionized the ability to enter the
virtual cockpit, giving the flier the freedom to watch that
bogey without the clumsiness of hat switches or the artificial
feel that a padlock view gives.
the company didnt rest on their laurels. While joystick
design and manufacture has been relatively stagnant over the
last few years (name any really new designs to come out in
the last three years) NaturalPoint has been busy trying to
improve the TrackIR, making it more responsive and more accurate
for those players that want to get the most out of their flight
The third version of the TrackIR arrived
a week and a half ago and I have had the chance to play with
it in games like WW2 Online,
Lock On: Modern Air Combat,
IL-2 Sturmovik - Forgotten
Battles: Aces Expansion Pack and Flight
Simulator 2004. These are similar games as the ones
I used last year for the TrackIR2 and it gives me a
good ability to actually compare the two devices.
Of course two questions arise. Is
the TrackIR3 (in this case the TrackIR 3-Pro version
I received) worth buying for the non TrackIR owner? The answer
is probably pretty obvious based upon the previous review
of its older brother, the TrackIR2. The real question
should be; Is this device worth the cost of an upgrade, i.e.,
should TrackIR1 or 2 owners consider plunking out the price
to get a TrackIR3? Well, read on and hopefully I can answer
Concept and Design
The TrackIR system was developed actually
from a device that was used to help the disabled gain access
to computers. In 1997 NaturalPoint (then called Eye Control
Technologies) started to develop a hands free mouse system
for people unable to use a mouse. By placing a small infrared
camera and having it track a dot placed somewhere on a persons
head the device could easily emulate any mouse movement.
It didnt take long for someone
to figure out that if you placed this device in front of you,
then fired up a simulation that had a mouse look available
in the cockpit, you could easily pan a cockpit without the
clutter of trying to move a mouse around. NaturalPoint noticed
this, and in a case of someone quickly realizing the potential
of their device, and began to develop a gamer oriented version
of the Smart Nav system.
Like a lot of new devices, the TrackIR
has had some slow acceptance among simmers. One of the initial
problems with using the device was the relative lack of mouse
view in many of the early simulations. In 2000 the number
of flight sims that had mouse pan were still few and far between.
Most virtual cockpits still required people to use a hat switch
to change views. The development of mouse driven cockpits
wasnt far behind though and once this became standard
equipment the idea behind the TrackIR came into its own.
As I said before, the TrackIR is essentially
a mouse emulator. Instead of using a mouse or trackball to
move around in a virtual cockpit the TrackIR3 uses infrared
data to follow your head movement via a reflective dot placed
somewhere on your head. The TrackIR3 follows a 32 degree arc
in front (or behind if you want to configure it that way)
of you. The device follows the movement of the dot and translates
it into movements of the mouse on your computer.
Placed in the cockpit you get the
idea. Since the device translates small movements into larger
head movements in the cockpit it becomes quite easy to pan
an entire cockpit with just a few small head movements. With
practice most people should be able to follow an object while
in the virtual cockpit with ease. It does take some practice
and for those of us that have a hard time keeping their heads
still, it can be hard at first. Still, practice it and after
a few hours you will get the hang of it.
Given the relative lack of innovation
in flight simulation hardware lately, the Track IR system
has been a quantum leap forward. I stated in an earlier review
(of the TrackIR2) that this is probably the biggest leap forward
in flight simulation hardware since the invention of the hat
switch. My TrackIR2 has really been a boon for most of the
flight sims that I fly. The TrackIR3 claims to be a major
improvement, well lets see.
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