Robots & smart consoles

04:24, Sep 28 2013
Robot Bot wars competition shown here with 16 year old former world champ George Gillard.
BOT BOY: Robot Bot wars competition machines, shown here with 16-year-old former world champ George Gillard.

Kiwi gaming enthusiasts are among the world's first to try out the new XBox One console this weekend, ahead of the official launch in New Zealand in November.

The first Digital Nationz digi-gaming expo at Auckland's Vector Arena provides the first opportunity for people to get their hands on the new XBox One console, with the action playing out on giant screens.

It comes with live television and Skype capability, improved sensors and specialised vibration controllers.

The console can switch on when the smart controller is picked up, and differentiate between players, head of XBox NZ, Steven Blackburn said.

"The sensor is at a standard now where it sees in the dark, it can pick up people's faces and very subtle movements," he said.

"It can see fingernails and detect heartbeats. This is exciting for developers, this could be used for party games where you have to chuck the controller around and answer questions."


Thousands are expected to descend on Vector Arena this weekend, with Kiwi gamers showing they know their stuff.

"Kiwis ask really in-depth questions, we like our technology," Blackburn said. "We like to be on the cutting edge of things."

Among those on the frontline of gaming technology is former VEX Robotics high school team world champion George Gillard.

The 16-year-old from Albany was testing out his latest Wi-Fi-controlled aluminium robot in the Bot Warz challenge.

Players programme and drive their 40cm metal robots remotely around a field, balance balls and hang from a railing. But spectators' mobile phones became a bit of a problem for George.

"We keep getting interference from the Wi-Fi, which we use to communicate between the joystick and the robot. So we definitely have lots of things to improve."

George was part of a home-schooled team of students who took out the high school category in the VEX Robotics World Championships in Los Angeles in 2010 when he was just 13.

George spends three hours a week building robots, but recently upped that and took two months off school perfecting his creation. "I love the competition aspect, it's very exciting."

Digital Nationz continues tomorrow with the much-anticipated MegaUpload mogul Kim Dotcom challenge from 9am. Dotcom will face off 100 opponents in his favoured game Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, promising to donate $100 to charity for every game he conquers.

Other highlights include live demonstrations and a museum of gaming history, with high calibre speakers including Weta Workshops' Greg Broadmore, and Jay Hosfelt from Epic Games.