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NaturalPoint TrackIR 4 Pro Review

Crispin Boyer - Feb 5, 2006       0 Comments
Crispin Boyer - Feb 5, 2006
    0 Comments

One word of warning before you wrap your noggin around the new TrackIR 4 Pro: You will look like a grade-A crackpot. And that’s not just because you must wear a hat topped with included silver sensors to make this head tracking device work (hey, it’s a step up from the previous iteration, which had player adhering shiny stickers to their foreheads). You just look silly nodding, bobbing, and leaning in front of your computer screen as the gizmo’s monitor-mounted tracker translates your head movements into in-game camera motions.

It won’t get you laid, but the results are worth the nuking of potential nookie – at least if you’re a flight-sim or racing-game fan, the unit’s target market. This newest model is much sleeker and has a wider field of view than the older ones. That wider field helps capture “six degrees of freedom” (6DOF), it’s a feature that goes beyond simply letting you look left, right, up, and down; it means you can lean in your seat, scoot close, or even rotate your head, and the onscreen camera will weave, zoom, and spin accordingly. Note that TrackIR 3 users can add 6DOF functionality to their units with an optional $30 software add-on. Not all Track IR-enhanced games support 6DOF (you’ll find the full list at www.naturalpoint.com), but those that do will sell you on the feature once you try it.

Take Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight; prop yourself up higher in your chair and you can see the top of your aircraft’s virtual dashboard. Lean out of the pilot’s seat in your helicopter and look down, and you can see the landing skid. The trouble is, Track IR 4 Pro’s wow value is still limited to the flight and racing genres. While NaturalPoint, for instance, encouraged the makers of the Battlefield series to include support in their latest title, that never materialized. And switching on the unit’s mouse emulation – basically, you use your head to move the mouse pointer – just doesn’t work in the Battlefield games and is impractical in many other first-person shooters. NaturalPoint’s reps tell us that the upcoming Armed Assault, due this summer from Operation Flashpoint developer Bohemia Interactive, will be the first shooter to support 6DOF. So it’s clear the company is at least trying to break into new genres with this gizmo.

But if driving or flight is your thing, the Track IR 4 Pro is a must-get. It’s easy to set up and install, demands very little from your system, and adds so much situational awareness to your games that you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.

You can by the Track IR 4 Pro from naturalpoint.com for $180.

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