Ever since this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, I have been excited about a new gaming platform called Sifteo. Nintendo has pioneered the adoption of motion controls with the Wii, and Sony and Microsoft have begrudgingly followed suit with their Move and Kinect programs, but what if you could play video games in the palm of your hand with no controller? I was fortunate to be able to get into the Early Access program and try out the Sifteo Cubes.
Sifteo cubes remove the controller, and even the distant video monitor and place all of the activity in small white cubes the size of a double thick matchbook. Each cube has a small screen on the top face. Inside the cube, a variety of motion sensors can detect whether the cube is being tilted, shaken, or turned over. The cubes also detect if they are in contact with another cube, and the screen can be pressed in like a button. All of these functions provide a very tactile experience while playing with the cubes.
Play is intuitive because the interaction with the cubes is direct and immediate, without keystrokes or joystick movements. If you want the gopher to go left down a tunnel, you tilt his cube left. Can’t spell any more words with the three letters you’ve been given? Shake a cube for a new set of three letters. Want to match two green jewels with four green jewels? Push two cubes together so the jewels connect. You interact with the cubes as naturally as a child playing with blocks.
How do the cubes work? They can be stored and charged on a small base. Software is loaded through a PC or Mac wirelessly through a small USB attachment provided. Some games are augmented with sound from the PC or Mac during play. It is important to note that the computer must be within 20 feet of the cubes for them to operate. Games must be purchased, loaded, and changed from the computer, but once you start playing a game, the computer can be ignored, and all commands and interactions are handled by the cubes.
Sifteo cubes provide a completely unique way to play video games, and although I’m having fun playing the games that are currently available, I truly feel that the full potential of the cubes has yet to be realized, which is exciting.