New Game Controller Prototype Pulls and Stretches Thumbs

After all of these years, it's actually surprising that game controllers haven't evolved more in the haptic feedback department. Sure it can be nice to have in some games, but a lot of times it can be more of a lousy gimmick than a gameplay enhancing feature. Luckily for your thumbs, researchers may have stumbled upon the next generation of game controllers.

Currently being developed at the University of Utah, researchers have created a game controller with "skin-stretching" thumbsticks. Skin-stretching makes it sound kind of creepy and gross, so we like to think of them more as thumb-massaging analog sticks. The prototype controller features two thumbsticks with small red tactors in the middle, moving independently from the stick.

While you have your thumbs on the sticks, controlling your in-game character, the red tactors can provide a variety of different feedback effects based on their movement. It's impossible to tell without trying if it'll be disruptive enough to affect your gaming at all, but from the looks of the video it seems subtle enough. One of the researchers behind the project, professor William Provancher describes the sensation to be "very similar to what you get if you place your finger down on a table top and drag it across."

The video demonstrates the controller's abilities with a fishing game, but the team says it could be used to simulate all sorts of effects such as gun recoil, explosions and even the feeling of a soldier army crawling their way through the battlefield. The controller is still in its prototype stages, but the team hopes to create a production ready model in time for the next generation of gaming consoles.

Tuan Mai

Tuan Mai is a Los Angeles-based writer and marketing professional focused mainly on PC gaming and hardware. He held the role of Social Media Editor across Tom's Guide and its sister publications for more than six years, helping the sites grow their audiences and also contributing dones of articles, with a special interest in the weird and quirky.

  • stupid
  • Lord Captivus
    I like this, every thing that improves playing games is always welcome!!
    Nice idea!
  • wooodoggies
    controller = noob
  • sockso
    This sounds cool in concept. But I'm afraid that only a few games would ever incorporate the control into their design well. Also, damn kids would break the thing overnight.
  • nforce4max
    I only use keyboard and mouse thank you...
  • elcentral
    this is one of those things you need to feel in real life, like 3d it cant be shown it needs to be used to c if you like it or not.
  • I could see this helping to tell what angle the bullets are hitting your character. Like in Gears of war. You see red on screen and feel the rumble but this controller may be able to help pin point that so you can evade attack.
  • Microgoliath
    @ jacekring cnt quote on phne.

    That could be said about sport games as well, why not go out and play golf? Or soccer? Or cricket? Etc. Its just made for those okes that can't or enjoy playing the game and actually doing it.
  • f-14
    how about a gun controller with force feedback.
    get realistic, not console. you put something like this into a console you better upgrade the power supply or add another power cord.
    also stop designing stuff for 5 year olds, this thing is the size only a infant child could use.
  • olaf
    great another stupid gimmick to make consoles more apealing , and cover up the simplistic and dumb games that they have .... i have yet to see 1 pc game that does not suffer from being awailable on consoles as well or being a console port...