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Tech Wednesday, March 7th 2012 at 11:12 am

Prototype Controller Showcases Context-Sensitive Haptic Thumbsticks

Remember the Rumble Pak? Funny to think that haptic feedback in a controller used to be a luxury and not the norm. Now, thankfully, it’s included by default in almost every video game controller, yet we’re still stick with plain old rumble. Controller-free systems like the Kinect even threaten that, but engineers at the University of Utah are still sweet on haptic, which is why they’re trying to take it to the next level with a controller that emulates specific moments by manipulating little motorized thumbsticks inside your thumbsticks. Yo dawg.

The idea is that the little inner thumbstucks, called tactors, provide a kind of haptic that’s more specific than just rumbling a controller. Your character is swimming? The tactors manipulate the thumbstick in a wave-like motion. Something just exploded over to your left? The tactors rock the joysticks accordingly. They also vary their feedback based on how far you have your thumbstick pushed in one direction or another, so it’s not like it’d be totally throwing off your control.

All I have to say is, “Yes please.” I’ve been in love with haptic ever since it started to become widely used. There’s something subtly immersive about haptic feedback, something way more vital that “being the controller” or whatever motion control is pushing. Haptic, for instance, is pretty much the only thing that makes touchscreen typing possible, for me at least. That being said, I’m glad the technology hasn’t just been relegated to straight rumble and that someone out there is aiming to elevate it. There is nothing I’d like less than a world where I have to be the controller all the time, unless someone can figure out how to haptic me.

(via Technabob)

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