HXT Helmet from TN Games Preview
Official Site tngames.com
Late last year, TN Games launched the 3rd Space Vest for PC gamers. Previously known as the "ForceWear" vest, the TN Games 3rd Space Vest connects to the PC using a USB port and transforms gunshots and physical blows within games into actual, location-sensitive, real-life impacts. In time for the 2008 holiday season, TN Games plans to launch a similar peripheral, called the HXT Helmet, this time to provide tactile feedback for headshots.
The founder and President of TN Games is Mark Ombrellaro, a man who is both a gamer and a vascular surgeon. And in a manner similar to medical compressed air devices used to maintain circulation in patients, the 3rd Space Vest uses rapidly compressed air to exert force on areas of the chest to correspond to hits in games from the front, back and sides.
The vest, currently available in black or camouflage for $169, will be upgraded to a second generation vest that will feature five plug-in points so that additional peripherals can be added to simulate hits to the arms, legs and head. This is being called the 3rd Space FPS system. I got the chance to try a prototype of the HXT Helmet peripheral myself.
I remember that the retail version of the 3rd Space Vest was a lot more comfortable than the prototype TN Games was showing off many months before the product launch, but the HXT Helmet was already quite snug, consisting of a hard outer shell, plenty of padding and a chin strap to keep the whole thing secure. The helmet features four hit areas (on the front, back and both sides), so just in case that head shot isn't lethal, you'll know exactly in which direction to search for your assailant.
If you haven't tried the 3rd Space Vest, understand that while the vest won't harm you, it does land a solid blow. It's nothing on the scale of a paintball or rubber bullet, but it's a decent shove, and some people even find it uncomfortable or disconcerting. The HXT Helmet provides the same kind of force. It won't give you headache or leave bruises, but it is a blow to the skull – the kind of thing you can now avoid both in-game and in real life. It wasn't painful, but I did find that a shove from a bladder of rapidly compressed air to the head did confuse my balance and make it harder to focus on the PC screen. If you're looking at TN Games' products, that's exactly what you're looking for. But this is a product line with a very specific audience. If the virtual experience of seeing your character get blown away isn't enough, and you prefer feeling like you're really getting blasted, this is the peripheral for you.
The HXT Helmet (as well as the arm and leg sleeves) is particularly exciting in that it promises to extend the hit locations available to receive tactile feedback on your in-game wounds from what you can already get with the 3rd Space Vest. And TN Games is working to figure out how to extend that experience. For example, the air bladders might be able to send a whisper of air by your ear if a bullet is a near miss instead of a spot-on impact. The whole field is very exciting, and I'm curious to see what TN Games will do after the HXT Helmet becomes available late this year. As the company's catch-phrase suggests, with their products, you can "Get pounded on your own terms."