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Monday, 08 January 2007 06:01

Philips' amBX adds a new dimension to high-intensity gaming

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Forget next-generation consoles and the risk they pose to your TV. Philips' amBX PC gaming peripherals, which I witnessed during a press demonstration at CES, are a much more satisfying way of achieving a high-intensity gaming experience.


amBX is a kind of cousin to Philips' well-regared Ambilight TV technology, which bathes the outer edges of your TV screen in a colour co-ordinated glow that changes with the picture. Rather more ambitiously, amBX adds in-room lighting effects, enhanced sound and even wind effects to game play.

The initial range of amBX accessories includes standalone satellite lights, lights which integrate with speakers, wall washer lights for total room effects, a pair of desk fans for wind and air effects, and a "wrist rumbler" to add realistic motion.

Each element is triggered by actions specific to the game play; when an explosion goes off, for instance, the room is bathed in red light. The LED-controlled satellite lights can produce 16 million colours, so it's a bit more impressive than those cellophane effects you used to see at the school disco.

Shown off to the assembled hacks on a demo version of Supreme Commander, the overall result was highly impressive. Rather than just focusing on the in-screen action, the entire room appears to become part of the action.

The Philips demonstration took place in a large conference room; in the confines of a more typical lounge room, the results would be even more impressive. Setup software lets you detail your room layout, allowing the effects to be customised for different spaces.

The only downside to all this is that games need to be specially coded in order to take advantage of the amBX features. Titles already completed include Broken Sword: The Angel of Death, DEFCON and Toca Racing Driver 3, while Supreme Commander (the game demonstrated at CES) and Rail Simulator are under development.

What would be really cool d is an open API so that existing games can easily be retrofitted to the technology, or hardware versions for next-generation consoles. The PC amBX products, which are priced at between $US199 and $US399 in a range of configurations, will make their US debut this quarter.


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