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Nintendo's Wii U GamePad has nine-axis precision
Nintendo's Wii U GamePad has nine-axis precision
November 28, 2012 | By Mike Rose

November 28, 2012 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Design

How does the Wii U GamePad achieve such satisfyingly responsive motion control? The company behind the Wii U GamePad's motion sensors recently shed some light on the issue.

The Wii U's tablet-like controller has a nine-axis understanding of its orientation, according to PNI Sensor Corporation, the company that produced the magnetic sensor for Nintendo's new controller.

The souped up technology is great news for studios looking to build games for the Wii U that require tight controls -- Oh says that the added precision helps eliminate the shakiness of the original Wii's cursor.

The geomagnetic sensor in the device has a 15 times higher resolution than those found in cell phones, and together with the gyroscope and accelerometer, reads the controller's orientation across all three axes - hence, nine-axis functionality.

"[The gyroscope and accelerometer] are good at tracking relativistic change," PNI chief executive Becky Oh told GamesBeat. "But it doesn’t tell you absolutely where you're pointing and where the pointer is."

"What the magnetic sensor does is use the Earth's magnetic field as a reference. It can always guide [the GamePad] back to what the absolute position is."

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Luis Guimaraes
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All good and nice, but what's the true input lag for the 9-axis precise sensor?
Even a cabled mouse is unbearable with V-Sync ON, and wireless ones are definitely not suited for gaming.

David Holmin
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Can't be worse than Kinect. :)

Anyway, couldn't the geomagnetic sensor be used just for calibrating the sensors locally in the GamePad now and then? If that's how it's done, I guess latency would be the same as for the WiiMotion Plus. No idea what that is.

Arnaud Clermonté
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David, if I remember well, in Wii sports 2 in the fencing game, you have to recalibrate the wiimote every few seconds by pointing at the sensor bar.
The geomagnetic sensor is required to properly evaluate the yaw of the controller without frequent recalibration.
They should have included it in the wii motion plus... (just like the wii motion plus should have been in the basic wiimote )

Ian Uniacke
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I'm not sure why instead of inventing the wheel the cavemen didn't just invent cars. Would have saved everyone a whole lot of trouble.

Arnaud Clermonté
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Ian, let me give you a hint:
"inventing" is not the same as "using already available technology".

Chris Melby
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Your VSync comment has me going WHAT??? Sounds like someone needs a new PC? :)

VSync won't cause noticeable lag, if your computer is up to spec for handling the task at hand.

But, having said that, if you're playing a poorer quality console port and using its VSync option, it might only do 30 hz( 30 fps ). This creates massive latency. It's is fixable though, by disabling the in game option and then forcing VSync on in the GPU preference -- which sets the Hz to that of your screen.

I always play with VSync on, but only because I know my PC can push 60 fps without dropping a frame and my screen is only 60 hz. With VSync off, I get noticeable tearing on my screen, which bothers me.

@ Christian,

Interesting stuff!

J Wolfniggr
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Hardly any lag on controls, sensors or the screen. My problem with their controllers is on the lack of analog buttons. I'm glad to see the analog sticks for their console are now circled instead of octagonal and that they have built in digital buttons, but why digital trigger buttons? Are analog buttons really that much more expensive? I could live with digital face buttons, but at the very least the triggers should have been analog. I guess the U isn't made for the driving game enthusiast.

Maybe if they release a SUPER Pro controller and MEGA Game pad analog buttons can be included...won't hold my breath though.

Merc Hoffner
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Precision is vanity, accuracy is sanity! Hah, well in the old days anyway. It's really quite clever - between gravity being used as a discontinuous pitch and roll reference and the magnetometer being used as a continuous yaw reference (and the two corroborating each other), and with the main TV screen acting as a kind of natural psychological fiduciary marker - at least on a statistical basis, absolute reference markers are hardly needed, and dead-reckoning need only persist for a second or two. It's a situation that didn't work with accelerometers and gyroscopes alone, and which doesn't really stick on 'un-tethered' devices like phones, tablets and handhelds. Thus Nintendo figures they don't even need a 'sensor bar' anymore, and with the panorama demo I tried, I'm inclined to agree. It's a little known point, but Playstation Move is in a similarish position - it has absolute references for positioning sure, but has only these 3 sensors and the users' natural tendencies to go on for orientation. And yet it seems to get on OK.

@ Christian

I'm sure I read about an earlier program (also DARPA I believe) where they similarly had a real-time computer program that could compensate for a plane with a wing blown off mid-flight and leave a pilot with something like 80% of the original maneuverability. They couldn't use it though! - the program back then operated through the use of neural network self-teaching software to remap the dynamics of the plane as the failure occurs - and because it's a blackbox process (the software it writes is unknown to the developers pending pouring over huge amounts of jumbled self coded code) it could never possibly be validated for dependable use.