Video game chair puts you in the...


Video game chair puts you in the center of sound and 0) sensation

Remember virtual reality? In the early '90s, there were many breathless pronouncements about the immersive computer environments we would all be swimming in before the millennium. While true VR for the home is still years away, there are some baby-step products on the market this Christmas, such as force-feedback joysticks, 3D surround-sound audio systems and the ultra-cool Intensor chair.

The Intensor is a video game chair is designed to immerse you in sound and provide strong tactile sensations during computer or console game play. It can also be used to enhance television, video or DVD movie experience.

The chair has five built-in speakers, as well as vibrators that carry sound along the surface of the chair. The idea is to not direct the sound at the user but to place the user inside of the sound field. The results, especially in conjunction with an existing computer or home theater speaker system, will delight those in search of greater game thrills. If you don't want to drive your housemates insane during all-night Quake sessions, a headphone jack is also provided.

The Intensor comes in two models. The basic chair ($249, after rebate), designed for console gaming, sits on the floor. Its rounded base allows you to rock 'n' roll along with the action on your screen. A subwoofer can also be added ($169, after rebate) for more gut-rattling sound and a conventional chair base ($99, after rebate) can be added for desktop gaming.

Information: 800-274-5227 or on the Web:

"Graphic command pad" offers alternate input device

There are probably as many input devices for computers at this point as there are hands (and feet) to work them. The mouse and joystick may be the standards, but that hasn't stopped developers for throwing all manner of bizarre gizmos at the market in hopes that a new device will catch on. A recent edition to this effort is Saitek's PC Dash.

The PC Dash ($69.95) is a 13-by-10-by-2-inch command pad that has a series of touch-sensitive pads instead of buttons or keys. Colored overlay sheets map the pads to commands used in games and other applications. The Dash comes with a dozen pre-printed overlays for popular games such as Tomb Raider, TIE Fighter and F-16 Fighting Falcon. There are other overlays available on the Saitek Web site, and the pad comes with software that lets you design your own.

The concept of the PC Dash is interesting and will likely appeal to those who have a hard time memorizing keyboard commands. Here, you look down and see the specific icon for "draw weapon" or "jump" instead of trying to remember a key sequence. I found the absence of buttons or keys that move to be annoying (though the plastic overlay is slightly raised to offer some degree of tactile feedback). I also couldn't figure out where I was supposed to put the pad. You can't really hold and operate it at the same time, and it's slightly awkward on your lap. It seems to work best in conjunction with a joystick when it's used in place of the keyboard on your desk.

Like many alternatives to mice and joysticks, the PC Dash is a gadget that you'll want to test drive to see if it's right for you. I think it would be more useful if you could hold it with two hands and still reach all of the touchpads. Maybe next year's model.

Information: 800-452-4377 or

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