RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Can video games take the Wii experience even further?

Merscom, a publisher of a growing variety of video games, is taking a crack at it by expanding the capabilities of several titles to support innovative “touch” technology.

Perhaps trying to capitalize on the soaring popularity of Nintendo’s Wii device, which includes a wireless controller geared to a player’s motion, Merscom is seeking to deliver feeling.

The Chapel Hill-based gaming firm said Thursday that it would incorporate 3D touch technology from Novint, a New Mexico firm, in several titles.

Novint has developed a controller called the Falcon that enables players to touch and feel pressure. Merscom said it would include the ability to use the patented controller in its titles “The Ship,” “WWII Tank Commander,” “Masterpiece Fishing,” “Buku Dominoes” and “Jewel Craft.”

If you can believe the hype, Novint CEO Tom Anderson said players using the Falcon will experience “the realistic feeling of injecting a poison-filled syringe” to “the blast of tank artillery shells” and “the tug of their fishing line.”

Here’s how Novint describes the Falcon:

“Users hold onto the Falcon’s interchangeable Grip (or handle) which moves left and right and forwards and backwards, like a computer mouse, but also moves up and down. The Grip can come in many shapes and forms and includes a quick disconnect feature which lets users change handles for specific uses or types of game play. As the Grip is moved, the computer keeps track of a 3D cursor. When the 3D cursor touches a virtual object, the computer registers contact with that object and updates currents to motors in the device to create an appropriate force to the device’s handle, which the user feels. The computer updates the position of the device, and updates the currents to the motors a thousand times a second (i.e. at a 1 kilohertz rate), providing a very realistic sense of touch. The three electrical motors are connected to the three arms extending out of the device, with one motor connected to each arm. The three arms are connected to the device’s handle. At any given cycle, or 1/1000th of a second, the device can create a force on the handle in any direction of any magnitude, up to the maximum force.”

Well, this certainly sounds much more advanced than the old rumble feel in previous controllers.

Merscom Chief Executive Officer describes the Falcon as “a great new interface that adds a whole new layer to the player experience.”

It’s not cheap, however – about the cost of a Wii system (if you can find one).

The Novint Falcon, which costs $239, includes a ball –like device attached by arms to a stand. Players maneuver the ball like a mouse, and various sensations are fed through the ball to the user’s hands. It comes with 30 games, including Half Life 2.

Merscom games will be downloadable for play with the Falcon through a Novint download site.

Interested? The Falcon is set to go on sale October 8 at retailers, including CompUSA.