Sega Activator: Full Body Motion Controller
Written by Rev. Robert A. Vinciguerra Tuesday, 17 August 2010 09:07
With the success of the Nintendo Wii and the impending launch of the PlayStation Move and Microsoft Kinect, motion control is becoming all the rage, a fad, if you will. And everyone wants to jump on board.
In 1993 Sega had a similar idea. They invited gamers to â€śJump Into the Actionâ€ť with their new and amazing peripheral: Activator.
Activator was an octagonal full body controller. The unit was placed on the floor. One cable plugged into the Genesis controller port, and the other into the wall. Yes, it had its own power supply. So, Sega gamers who had a Genesis, Sega CD, and 32X had better by the special Sega power strip plug everything in at once.
The player stands in the center of the octagon. Each segment of the Activator transmits an infrared beam to the ceiling which is then bounced back (gamers with vaulted ceilings were out of luck). The game is controlled when the player interrupts the beam. Each beam can be broken either high (with hands and arms), or low, (with feet and legs), giving the Activator sixteen separate inputs.
Sega advertized the device as a way to translate actual player movement into a game. Commercials showed teenagers performing martial arts moves in games like Eternal Champions and had them happening on the screen. How cool is that?!
Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter II, and other games that it was marked for were still designed for a controller.
In reality, each of the sixteen inputs corresponded to an actual button on the Genesis controller. This led to difficult and exhausting gameplay. Seriously, Wii Fit has nothing on the aerobic workout of playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 with an Activator.
As a controller, Activator is a disaster. The controls are imprecise, p ulling off combination moves is impossible, and the player becomes fatigued quickly. After ten minutes with the Activator, the standard Genesis controller seems like the greatest device ever invented.
It should then come as no surprise that the Activator wasnâ€™t originally intended as a videogame controller. Go figure. The device was originally called â€śThe Light Harpâ€ť and was invented by Assaf Gurner to make music by moving around the body. Hereâ€™s a video of Gurner demoing the product at the 1993 CES.
In retrospect, that wouldâ€™ve been a much better idea. Perhaps the music game genre couldâ€™ve been born much earlierâ€¦ Then again, perhaps not.
Today the Activator is hard to come by, but when they do turn up complete units generally sell in the $10 to $25 range. Theyâ€™re not very valuable because theyâ€™re not highly desired. Nevertheless, itâ€™s an interesting novelty to have around and pull out for friends on occasion.
Check out the training video: