Smartphones have already replaced cameras and calendars for many people — and piles of gaming controllers might be next.
A startup called WanderPlayer has developed a technology that turns iPhones (and soon Android phones) into controllers for computer games, no matter whether those games call for a classic controller, Wii-like motion controller, a steering wheel or five other options.
Here’s how it works: Users download a desktop app and a mobile app. The mobile app lists online games from around the web. Selecting a game from the mobile app menu opens it on the computer, and the two devices communicate over Wi-Fi. It’s not an easy technology to make work well.
“You could probably build a crude equivalent at a hackathon,” says co-founder Ayo Omojola, “but both the user-interaction and performance required for games [as well as] the controllers and console that work across local environments are really difficult and take a while to get right.”
WanderPlayer has developed a controller without a noticeable delay that it says can work with pretty much any game (so far it’s applied the technology to about 150 of them). As is, the product is impressive.
WanderPlayer has the potential to turn gaming on its head.
Eventually, the startup plans to add multi-player functionality. For the first time, it will be possible for two players to go head-to-head on the same computer screen without any additional equipment. When online games are broadcast through an Internet-to-TV player like Boxee or AppleTV, the technology could bring unlimited player gaming to the TV gaming experience.
“You could have a football game where all 11 players on the field are being controlled,” says Femi Omojola, Ayo’s brother and co-founder.
The brothers and their third co-founder Gaurav Namit ultimately want to turn WanderPlayer into a platform on which game developers sell optimized versions of their games with iPhone controllers that they build themselves. Whereas all of the free games currently listed in the app are designed to be surrounded by ads, WanderPlayer envisions its technology being put to use with full-screen, high-quality games.
“Most people already have games that they like to play,” says Ayo Omojola about why the startup didn’t initially launch a developer platform. “We see this as a good way to start the conversation with developers about integrating with their games … They’ll see that players are already using [the controller with their games].”