One of the unique selling points of Wii U is that it enables players to seamlessly switch from playing a game on their big screen TV to the small screen on their Wii U game pad – thus solving the eons-old gaming problem of screen-hogging when somebody else wants to watch TV.
But while that might be all fine and dandy for Wii U players, owners of other consoles continue to deal with the gamer tradition of negotiating with friends and family for screen time. However, this may not be the case for too much longer. Advanced Gaming Innovations have Kickstarted a device that enables players to enjoy that same Wii U-like functionality on pretty much any major gaming machine – and even their PC should the fancy take them. The solution comes in the form of a high-definition, hand-held device called the Cross Plane, and it’s already working in prototype form.
The brainchild of Chris Downing and Jon Jandran, Cross Plane is being touted as “the first multi-platform WVI (Wireless Video Interface) gaming controller.” As you can see, it has a Wii U gamepad-like form factor, replete with 7-inch, 720p (1280 x 800) screen and a bevy of buttons and joypads for all your game-controlling needs.
The machine works by pairing a universal control interface with a transmitter that plugs into your console’s HDMI port to stream video wirelessly to the Cross Plane. Since different consoles have slightly different tech setups, Cross Plane uses cartridge "paks" for each system, so setting it up to work with your favorite console is as easy as plugging in the relevant pak. AGI says there are advantages to using this kind of approach: firstly to keep costs down by enabling users to buy only the paks for the consoles they want to use their Cross Plane with, and secondly, to reduce potential interference caused by console-to-console incompatibilities. There's a third advantage too – which is that paks can be created for upcoming consoles (or anything else that has an HDMI out), so the system doesn't become obsolete when the next generation of machines replace the current ones.
So far, AGI has plans for Xbox 360 (the newer version that's HDMI-enabled), PlayStation 3, OUYA and PC compatibility. Should you no longer want to be forced to sit at your desk to use your desktop PC, Cross Plane enables you to break free and play from your couch, or wherever else takes your fancy. Which makes it ideal for heavy MMO players who can finally take crafty bio breaks, or heat up a meal in the microwave without holding up their entire raiding party. Since Cross Plane is essentially streaming video, that means it can also be used to do anything else your PC can do, from running Emulators to re-streaming streaming video to the smaller screen.
For those wishing to use Cross Plane across multiple devices, there’s an optional switching box that lets you simultaneously connect up to four machines, which is more than enough for most households. Otherwise, it’s just a case of using a single HDMI transmitter for your primary console.
Cross Plane is an interesting device that seems built more for convenience than anything else. It’s definitely a luxury item, but it can certainly serve a practical purpose in terms of making life easier for those who might want to sit together in front of a TV, but still want to do their own thing. Its functionality as a "remote system" for a PC that might be in another room also makes it strangely handy.
Battery life is a bit of a concern at four hours – but since this is a home device, I imagine playing it while it’s charging won’t be too much of an issue. Also, transmission range is fairly short - although AGI expect both this and the battery life to improve if Kickstarter funding is successful. One thing I'm interested to see is whether there's any lag between the Cross Plane and whatever it's connected to. Wii U has shown this kind of system can work fine, so hopefully this will follow Nintendo's lead and produce near lag-free gaming.
AGI is looking for $350,000 to put Cross Plane into production, which is a fairly modest sum considering the technology involved in the device. We’ll just have to see whether enough consumers like the idea enough for it to take off.