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.