The evolution of the TrackIR device from NaturalPoint has been nothing short of remarkable over the last four years. Starting with the original mouse-emulating Track IR, followed by the TrackIR2™, the TrackIR3™ with enhanced mode (lets you use the TrackIR and your mouse cursor at the same time), the introduction of Vector Expansion which gave us six degrees of freedom (6DOF) axis motion, and last year the tiny wonder, TrackIR4 Pro.
With it’s small size, maneuverable grasping feet, 30% wider tracking area a 46 degree field of view, 25% faster response time, and resolution doubling technology, the TrackIR 4 would appear to many to be the pinnacle of design possibility. It’s what I sim with.
For a refresher and an in-depth look at the NaturalPoint® TrackIR4 Pro™, my December 2005 review is here.
Given all that NaturalPoint has accomplished, you might be forgiven for thinking there really wasn’t much, if any, room for improvement. Where could they possibly go from here? What else could the TrackIR do, besides make your bed, tidy up a bit, and take out the trash? I forgive you for wondering about this. I forgive me as well.
I will say though, as someone who has spent a fair amount of time playing online, using my headphones and Teamspeak to chat with other players, there was one tiny thing that aggravated me now and then. The Vector clip a three pronged metal clip that fits onto your TrackIR cap using spring (think sproing!) tension.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Vector, love 6DOF. That isn’t it.
First, it’s the hassle of always having to remember to put my cap on before I put my headphones on. I cannot tell you how many times I started playing and suddenly thought, Hey, how come my TrackIR isn’t working? Doh! No hat, again!
Stop the game, take the headphones off, get the cap, sproing! The clip flies off the cap because of my fumble fingers against the spring tension. Find the clip, put it back on the hat, put the hat on my head, headphones back over the top of the hat, adjust the mike again, go play.
And even that isn’t that bad, because you see, I have to have my TrackIR to play any simulation. That’s just the way it is, cannot play without it, so a little minor inconvenience is nothing.
No, what was bad was that sproing sound I mentioned. Because I would sometimes have to pause my gaming and get a drink, go to the bathroom, find out why the wife is yelling, and so on. You know how it is.
And without thinking, I would take my headphones off, and sproing! Off went my hat and more importantly, the Vector clip, into the netherworld: Onto the floor where it was in dire danger of me rolling over it with my sturdy Chinese made office-type chair and twisting it into something unrecognizable and unusable. Sometimes I just couldn’t find the thing and so I’m down on my hands and knees searching through the wadded up fast food wrappers, miles of cords, my MOMO pedals, CH Pro rudder pedals, crumpled paper notes, and an old apple core or two.
Somehow, the good folks at NaturalPoint seemed to have sensed my plight, Perhaps they heard the sproing? And so that I wouldn’t have to hear that dreaded sound again, they have introduced the TrackClipPRO.
What a concept! No need for the hat, no need for the Vector clip. No, instead, this handy device clips directly on to your headphones. One stop, no drop. It has three little built in active LED’s that help the TrackIR keep tabs on where my head is at all times.
Let’s take a look at this latest innovation.
Here is it is, fresh out of the box, nestled upon a bed of bubble wrap. I love that stuff… pop… pop… pop. That’s an ordinary writing pen for size reference.
One of the first things I noticed about the TrackClipPRO is how light it is, and that’s important when you consider you’re going to hang it on one side of your headphones. A heavy, bulky piece of gear on the left side of my headphones could make me lean that way and we wouldn’t want that. Not to mention what a pain in the neck it would be. No such problems however. I hardly notice the TrackClipPRO when it’s in place and doing that thing it does so well.