You can have my keyboard and mouse when you pry them from my cold, dead hands, but I can’t deny the popularity of game controllers with dual analog sticks. Plenty of games simply work better with a controller than they do with a keyboard and mouse. Controllers offer force feedback in the form of vibration, too. If a group of engineers from the University of Utah have their way, next-generation gamepads will also feature a form of haptic feedback that tugs at one’s fingertips.
The design is based on dual analog sticks, so it’s not reinventing the wheel. Atop each stick sits a little nubbin that looks not unlike the TrackPoint found on ThinkPad notebooks. This “tactor” is capable of moving in different directions, pulling the player’s fingertip along with it. Its creators suggest the motion can be used to simulate impacts, firearm recoil, the rolling waves of an ocean, or the nibble of a fish at the end of a line. That’s right, the controller has applications for not only Modern Warfare, but also Rapala Pro Bass Fishing.
A prototype controller is currently being demoed at the Haptics Symposium in Vancouver, Canada, although it sounds like the software is still a work in progress. I hope it gets sorted out soon, because well-executed haptic feedback can add a lot to the gaming experience. Thanks to Slashdot for the tip.