Alienware Concept Nyx Offers a Glimpse Into The Future Of Connected Home Gaming And Collaboration

dell concept nyx spatial input
Dell, through its gaming brand Alienware, is no stranger to new and interesting computing concepts that open new market opportunities and new ways for people to game and connect. Back in April of 2022, the company teased Concept Nyx as a way for people to connect with each other across the internet using AI-accelerating edge devices, but the initial announcement was a little light on the details. Today, Alienware and Dell have announced a trio concepts that they say could some day bring people, and especially gamers, together under the the Concept Nyx brand with a stylus, Spatial Input, and a new innovative controller. 

Dell's Virtual Collaborative Spaces Of The Near Future?

The target for Concept Nyx's Spatial Input and Stylus is to facilitate immersive virtual reality and mixed reality experiences using displays and other intuitive tools that remove the need for a VR headset. Dell showed off some video demonstrations of a user sitting at a desk with a small disc-shaped device that look like Apple's old circular iMac mouse and a Microsoft Surface Dial had babies coated in shiny black plastic. Gestures, including dragging and spinning the Spatial Input, were mapped to actions in a virtual environment. The same demonstration also featured the Concept Nyx Stylus, which was novel in that it didn't need direct contact with a tablet to write—for example, taking notes—in a virtualized collaborative space. 

dell concept nyx stylus
A demonstrator uses Dell's Concept Nyx Spatial Input and Stylus

While remote work has gone from novel to norm over the last three years or so, Dell says it's trying to think beyond the online interactions in the workplace of today. CTO of the Client Solutions Group Glen Robson writes in his blog post that the team behind Concept Nyx has also been thinking through how people might appear in future virtual workspaces. For example, think about being in a video meeting when someone knocks on the door and you have to step away. Robson imagines that with the wave of a hand, you could leave behind an intelligent avatar instead of a profile picture or an empty desk. We're struggling with this scenario, because we think at some point it'd be obvious you left the desk while other parties were talking. It doesn't matter how cute the avatar is, we can't imagine it going over well if you missed a key point or were absent for a crucial question, but maybe social norms will continue to evolve.

dell future of connection concept nyx avatar
Dell's ideas about avatars in virtual meetings raises interesting questions.

Alienware's Vision For The Future Of Smart Home Gaming

Another area the company is exploring ideas for the future is gaming. Some of the ideas the Concept Nyx Controller explores combine biometric technology with gaming. Robson says the team asked themselves what they could do if the controller could recognize its owner from other people in the home and used that physical authentication as a key to unlocking automated tasks. One sample scenario is using the controller to sign into an online game, and then point it at a streaming device to fire up a stream. The Concept Nyx Controller also experimented with integrating scroll wheels, as is commonly used to switch weapons with a mouse in a game. Of course, gamers can already use discrete devices to do all of this already, so it's not exactly new ground, but melding these input methods together could improve the overall experience.

Beyond that convenience, Alienware and Dell are also experimenting with haptics and force feedback. Sony's DualSense 5 controller has started down this path with its L2 and R2 triggers containing clicky haptics for things like using a sign (spell) in The Witcher 3's next gen update on PlayStation 5, or shooting webs in Spider-Man Remastered. The Alienware team is going farther down that road by experimenting with self-adjusting variable resistance in thumb sticks. Imagine if getting stunned or dizzied in a game resulted in analog sticks that resisted changing directions. That sort of feedback would be quite a handicap in an online game, but it could add to the experience in a single-player title. What if driving a tank in a game felt different than just walking? These are things that they're exploring. Of course, games need to add support for this sort of enhanced feedback. We've seen rumble mice come and mostly go, as many developers are slow on the uptake, but if the idea captures a developer's attention, it could be fun to experience. 

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Dell's Concept Nyx Controller includes scroll wheels on the bottom, much like mouse wheels

Dell has also explored multitasking with the Concept Nyx Controller, too. Think of a shared living room with a gamer and someone who wants to chill with a little Netflix. The Concept Nyx team has experimented with split screen viewing directly from the controller, but that raises other questions: how do you balance the audio between a movie and a game? Amusingly, we can imagine Apple coming to the rescue there, since Apple TV boxes pair simply and use spatial audio with AirPods, but we're also sure that Dell is already thinking about this. Robson says the team is also thinking about AI assistance to help gamers multitask, like an AI assistant that gets your attention when someone asks a question or says your name. "Yes, mom, we're totally listening to your story," indeed.

Now, don't get too excited about buying these concept devices just yet. Dell is quick to remind us that the different pieces of technology on display here are concept ideas and prototypes, not actual products. They're almost sure to not ship in their current form, although modified and improved versions might be announced down the line. Even if the ideas aren't perfect on their execution today, we're happy to see companies try to think through where connecting to each other might be going. We're especially happy to see Dell's team share their experiences and experiments as they work along the way.