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New Game Controller Stretches Thumbs to Mimic Action On Screen
Researchers at the University of Utah have created a prototype for a game controller that produces the feeling of the action going on in the game.
Engineers at the University of Utah have created a prototype for a video game controller that immerses the player more deeply in the action, by pulling and stretching the thumb tips to mimic the action happening in a game – like the tug of a fishing line, the recoil of a gun, or the feeling of ocean waves.
It looks similar to the traditional controllers used with Xbox or PlayStation, with the addition of a little red “tactor” in the middle of each joystick. This button stretches the skin of the thumbs in different directions based on the action happening in the game. For example, if the player’s avatar were to run into a wall, the tactor would pull back to offer the feel of impact. Or, if a fish were to bite the line in a fishing game, the tactor would jerk back.
A patent is pending for the prototype, which will be presented at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Haptics Symposium.
“We have developed feedback modes that enhance immersiveness and realism for gaming scenarios such as collision, recoil from a gun, the feeling of being pushed by ocean waves or crawling prone in a first-person shooter game,” William Provancher, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the university, said in a statement.
According to the BBC, the researchers are currently pitching the controller to Microsoft, as well as other console makers. Provacher also hopes to adapt the device as an add-on for smartphone game play.
“I’m hoping we can get this into production when the next game consoles come out in a couple of years,” he said.
By Leslie Horn, PCMag