When I saw that a company was demoing what looked to be the Power Glove of the 21st century, I knew I had to go see what this was all about. I will admit to you upfront, I can be kind of a ‘hater’ when it comes to peripherals. A bit of an old man, set in his controller ways who is unwilling to accept that there might be other ways. That being said, I tried the prototypes they had at PAX (it is not on sale, and has no official release date or price yet) and here are my thoughts.
In the hardcore world of competitive PC gaming, people are always trying to think of ways to improve performance, actions-per-minute, micromanagement techniques, mouse tracking speed, and anything else they can come up with to best opponents harder. Videogame control is all about hands, so it only makes sense that someday this idea would come back. The difference with Peregrine is that they are not trying to incorporate motion control at all, you keep your mouse. The essence of their idea is that the keyboard is wrapped around your hand, because despite how good we have all gotten at hotkeys and binds, they feel we could be faster on the draw and more comfortable in the process.
The one thing they definitely did right is making the glove not require drivers. There is software for configuring buttons, but the Peregrine is recognized like any keyboard in the world, on Windows, Mac, and Linux instantly via USB. The pod magnetically snaps onto the back of the glove and you’re ready to go. Steel wires run up and down your fingers and onto the steel pads at your thumb tip, thumb joint, and palm. When the pads touch the contacts on your fingers, that is a button press. So, for example you could assign F1 to your index finger’s point, F2 to your middle and so on, and there are your 4 major skills binds in Diablo 2, just touch to switch.
Obviously something like this requires a learning curve, and I personally did not find it easy to use at all at first. You can still use your keyboard with it in, which is important considering how much typing MMOs require. One major flaw that I find is, with a keyboard you have a tactile sensation that tells you when you hit a command, the button goes in and comes back up. With the Peregrine you have no way of knowing if your command was recognized, which if you miss in say WoW Arena combat means you are dead. The other problem they are dealing with is that the thumb tip isn’t perfect on everyone’s hand despite having different glove sizes, but since the glove is the cheaper and more customizable part of the system these things can be fixed.
In closing, despite the fact that there were pro gamers from Defense of The Ancients there on site telling me that the Peregrine improves their actions per minute, I remain slightly unconvinced. Perhaps after a lot of practice one could improve, but I missed half the button presses during my play-test of Warcraft III which leaves me feeling underwhelmed. The design is slick, comfortable and sexy, but the functionality doesn’t leave me wanting to drop the price of a high end keyboard.