The Falcon is a very attractive piece of hardware (bearing a striking resemblance to a turret from Portal, in fact) and one interacts with the games by holding the orb in the front of the unit, attached to the base via three arms. Each arm is connected to a motor that updates its position one thousand times a second, allowing for some incredibly fine control. Ice feels different than stone. Sand feels different from molasses. I use the orb to move my cursor around the 3D space, and when I hit the virtual sphere on the screen, the controller stops cold. These motors are strong, and provide a very strong sense of physical objects when you interact with them. It's an odd thing to experience, and video certainly helps to get the point across. Using the pistol grip pictured above provides a very real kick from firing a gun.
HaptX Life 2 is a free mod that adds support for the Novint Falcon to Half-Life 2 and Episode One. This is a good way to show how the Falcon can work with big-name, well-known properties, and the integration is impressive. When you fire the shotgun, the orb kicks in your hand; it's impossible to fire any fully-automatic weapon for more than short bursts while keeping your aim in one place. This is interesting, because the game suddenly becomes much more tacticalâ€”you have to think about what weapon you're using, and aiming is much more difficult. I mean that in a good way; this feels more real in many ways. Being in a gunfight and trying to keep a bead on your targets while firing the SMG, feeling the gun buck in your hand and wanting to pull up is amazing. You'll also feel explosions and know from where bullets are coming at you. Suddenly touch becomes a way to gain intelligence about your surroundings and discover where threats are coming from.
While the Half-Life 2 mod showed what could happen in a first-person shooter with the Falcon, Penumbra offers a much slower, in-depth use of the technology. When you pick up a rock, for instance, the rock has weight. When you walk with it, you can feel its inertia. You have to strain to pick it up and slam it into a frozen hatch to knock the ice off it, allowing you to enter. Doors have weight, and some take more effort to open than others. In low-light situations, you can navigate the game simply by touch. It's an amazing experience.
This thing sounds like a truly innovative controller with plenty of potential. I hope the manufacturer can make it a success