Technology Technology

Getting Behind the Wheel of Your TV

Video games have come a long way in the past 25 years. What were once digital squares on the screen have become fully formed human characters with natural movements and detailed facial features. Now that the visual quality of games has been improved, the gaming industry is shifting its focus to finding new and more effective ways to immerse players in the gaming experience.

Enter the Logitech Driving Force GT racing wheel, expected to be released in the U.S. in early May with a retail price of $149.99. This innovative controller is designed specifically for use with the PlayStation 3 "Gran Turismo" game series. One of the bestselling franchises of all time, the "Gran Turismo" games are known for their high level of vehicle detail and realistic driving simulation. Now, Logitech is making the experience even more realistic with the Driving Force GT racing wheel. Though the company has produced racing wheels for "Gran Turismo" in the past, the Driving Force GT promises to give players the most accurate and authentic racing experience yet.

The Driving Force GT was created with help from Polyphony Digital, Inc., the developer of the "Gran Turismo" series, and it probably has more features than most real automobiles. The new force feedback wheel simulates understeer, oversteer and traction loss with frightening accuracy. The wheel itself has a diameter of 11 inches, a horn in the center and is coated in rubber molding for greater comfort and handling. The Driving Force GT turns 900 degrees lock-to-lock so drivers can navigate hairpin turns, while anti-backlash gearing makes racing smoother and more realistic. Racers can use either a stick shift or pads on the wheel to quickly move through the gears, and separate full-size gas and brake pedals deliver precise throttle and brake response. In addition, users can employ the GT's unique real-time adjustment dial to fine tune the car's balance.

Logitech's new steering wheel is just the latest example in the emerging new wave of video game controllers. Recent entries have included wireless faux-guitar controllers for the "Guitar Hero" games, the motion controllers for the wildly popular Wii system and the Emotiv EPOC, an upcoming device that enables players to control games with their minds. The Driving Force GT functions to make gamers feel as though they are actually sitting in a real race car. Players shift, steer and brake just like real race car drivers (though with slightly less dire consequences). The idea behind the Driving Force GT - and all the new controllers really - is to get gamers so engrossed in the gaming experience that they actually forget they are even playing a video game. And, fact of the matter is, no real driver ever crossed the finish line in a BMW Z4 by wiggling a joystick and tapping on a couple of buttons.

The Logitech Driving Force GT racing wheel is expected to be available in game stores nationwide in early May - though, curiously, not the same day "Gran Turismo 5" is being released (April 17th).

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