New gaming device simulates tug of fishing line, gun recoils

26 May 2011
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A new kind of video game controller not only vibrates like existing devices, but also simulates the tug of a fishing line, the recoil of a gun or the feeling of ocean waves, a study shows.
"I'm hoping we can get this into production when the next game consoles come out in a couple of years," said William Provancher, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Utah, who designed the controller.

The first haptic or touch feedback in game controllers came in 1997 with the Nintendo64 system's "rumble pack", that makes the hands vibrate using an off-balance motor to simulate the feel of driving a race car on a gravel road, flying a jet or duelling with Star Wars light sabers, according to Provancher and colleagues.

His new controller does something additional: it delivers directional cues to the player, by stretching the skin of the thumb tips in different directions, according to an university statement.

"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," Provancher said.

The latest game controller prototype looks like controllers for Microsoft's Xbox or Sony's PlayStation but with an addition to the controller's normal thumb joysticks, on which the thumbs are placed and moved in different directions to control the game.

In the new controller, the middle of each ring-shaped thumb stick has a round, red "tactor" that looks like the eraser-head-shaped IBM TrackPoint or pointing stick now found on a number of laptop computer brands.

Video games commonly are designed so the left thumb stick controls motion and the right controls the player's gaze or aim.

With the new controller, as a soldier avatar crawls forward, the player pushes the left thumb stick forward and feels the tactors tugging alternately back and forth under both thumbs, mimicking the soldier crawling first with one arm, then the other.

Provancher is in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada demonstrating the new game controller with his students at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Haptics Symposium.

(c) NDTV
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