Boogio turns your shoes into controllers for immersive gaming

Reflex Labs' Boogio, a pair of wearable sensors that read a user's balance and 3D acceleration, not only has exciting applications for video games, it also renders bulky Wii Fit boards and other interactive hardware obsolete.

The start-up is targeting indie developers over the big three to push innovation with Boogio to create interactive game experiences without the need of bulky hardware, Reflex Labs co-founder and CEO Jose Torres told Polygon

"Right now we are focusing on indie developers because I think it is important for us to cater towards those guys while the big three figure out what they want to do," Torres said, adding that the company has been in casual talks with Microsoft and Nintendo. "But you got really cool highly innovative small teams, from casual games to gamification of activities, and that is what we are really excited about. Because those guys are the innovators and they are going to push the technology in wearables."

The product combines a pair of insole pressure sensors with 60,000 layers of pressure sensitivity and a 3D accelerometer clip that can pair with a smartphone or PC via Bluetooth. The sensors and clip capture gravitational force, pressure, inner balance and 3D acceleration of each foot and allow the user to see the data in real-time.

Reflex Labs was incubated by parent company Qi2, a sensor expert in the aerospace and energy industries. Reflex leverages its parent company's sensor innovations by turning it into wearable technology with three areas of focus. The first is utility where the user becomes the controller. This was demonstrated to us at E3 where a user navigated a Powerpoint presentation by shifting his weight. The second is diagnostics with rehabilitation and physical activity training. The final focus is entrainment with mobile games, virtual reality and PC gaming.

"For virtual reality, it is a nice complimentary peripheral you could combine that with gloves or vest or any of that stuff that has haptic feedback," he said. "But adding Boogio allows you to get that core centre of balance that aligns you to the 3D space."

A demo was shown of a player wearing the Oculus Rift and Boogio. As they sped along a helix-like race track populated by enemies, the user leaned left and right to control the avatar, leaned forward to shoot and shook his foot to stop. The game's inputs were set up using a protoype program where game developers could easily manage what inputs drive which actions in a game.

"We are mapping all of the gestures and different triggers in real-time to key events on the PC," he explained. "And what we are able to infer from that is essentially if you are leaning left or right or perform an action or trigger a combination. That is how we interface with Oculus Rift and that's how we map on top of indie games. We are using this interface to test ideas and figure how the tech could work with each other."

"This is where it gets really exciting. We are figuring out the best ways to create gestures which you can map for different experiences," he added. "We want to make something where people can feel comfortable doing their creative part in developing the stories and characters that would be best used by this kind of data. We want to make people feel like they have the tools to be creative with it."

Other entertainment possibilities include fitness gamification apps where the in-game avatar is updated in real-time based on what the user does in real-life. Torres explains that mobile gaming can also take advantage of the tech because it offers a way to interact with a game without having to put a controller case or big controller on a mobile phone.

Going forward, Reflex is focussing on further developing the sensor tech, and the infrastructure and tools for developers. The start-up is folding in partners now who will experiment with the product as Reflex minimizes the clips and makes the product more consumer focussed. Boogio alpha packages for innovators are available now, while pre-orders for the beta product aimed at developers open in summer and will ship by 2015. A consumer package will be available "sometime at the end of next year or 2016."

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