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5/9/2006
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For Nintendo, MEMS The Word

A novel video game controller uses advanced microelectromechanical systems technology to create a more intuitive user interface.

PARIS — In a move that may shift the focus in the videogame console battle from fast, powerful processing engines to more intuitive user interfaces, Nintendo unveiled a videogame controller Tuesday (May 9) that uses three-axis motion signal-processing technology.

The controller was shown at the E3 game show in Los Angeles.

Analog Devices Inc. and STMicroelectronics are key suppliers for the microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) sensors used in the controller. The system comprises two controller units—main and freestyle—each powered by a motion sensor. ADI sensors are used in the main controller; ST won the socket for the freestyle unit.

Nintendo developed the controller platform for its next-generation video console, called Wii (pronounced "whee"). Details about that console are not scheduled to be revealed until later this year.

Not to be outdone, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. disclosed this week that its Playstation 3 includes a videogame controller equipped with a six-axis sensing system. Sony was mum about how its new controller works and the identity of the motion sensor supplier.

Whereas a conventional videogame controller is held with two hands, Wii's main and freestyle controllers are designed to be held in one hand. They can also be swung, aimed, twisted and turned as if they were the player's sword, motorcycle handle or tennis racket. Some games will use only the main controller; others will use both controllers, tethered by a cable.

Critical to the new generation of game applications is the MEMS device's ability to sense a player's movements in three dimensions: forward/backward, left/right and up/down. When the unit is grasped, the system senses motion, depth and positioning as dictated by the acceleration of the controller, ADI said.

ADI is supplying its ADXL330, a standard three-axis motion signal processer, for Wii's main controller. "It's a single piece of silicon integrated with sensor and signal-conditioning elements," said Richard Mannherz, customer marketing manager for ADI's Micro Mechanical Product division.

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