The First Person Gamerunner fuses a treadmill with a USB game controller and allows players to literally walk through first person shooter games. The system uses optical encoders and embedded software to translate the movements of the treadmill to the corresponding movements inside the game environment, according to Charles Van Noland, Gamerunner's inventor. The toughest part of the design, he says, was translating digital signals from the encoder into the analog signals required to control the games. The system has a swiveling set of handlebars that allows players to make direction changes within the game. The handlebars also house user-configurable buttons, such as the one used for the trigger. Gamerunner Inc., the device's manufacturer, calibrates the system for fast walking speeds, rather than flat out running — mostly to allow gamers to play for long periods of time. And for the sake of safety, the treadmill moves forward only; a "reverse" button translates forward treadmill movement into backwards in-game movement. Gamerunner builds its treadmill structural elements from machined aluminum billets. "We wanted them to be rugged," says Van Noland, a mechanical engineer with a background in CNC machining. For more information and look at some videos of the controller in action, visit http://rbi.ims.ca/4915-528.
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Injection molding speedster Proto Labs is now offering magnesium molding as part of its rapid manufacturing services. Called thixomolding, the new service is aimed at both prototypes and low-volume production runs.
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