Watch a Valve engineer experiment with his mouse, butt controllers
Let's get one thing straight: Valve engineer Ben Krasnow doesn't expect you to play games with his prototype controllers anytime soon. Rather, the videos he posted this week demonstrate intriguing works in progress: a dental sensor that maps your tongue movements to an on-screen cursor -- a sort of mouth mouse, if you will -- and a posture controller cobbled together from the guts of an Xbox 360 gamepad and a digital bathroom scale.
Both are related to Krasnow's work on virtual reality -- he specifically calls out the posture controller as a promising alternative to gamepad or WASD keyboard control in virtual reality games. Watching the videos, you can see how these prototypes might be portents of a full-body VR control rig down the road; as Krasnow shifts his weight on the posture pad his in-game avatar slides smoothly down hallways and around corners, though he still relies on a mouse for anything requiring precise movement.
If the thought of trying to drag a mouse around a desk while you're balancing on a giant D-Pad and potentially strapping VR goggles to your face makes you ill, Krasnow's experiments in oral control might cheer you up. He's cobbled together a working tongue controller -- basically the guts of an optical mouse grafted into an oral retainer -- that can translate the movement of your tongue into X/Y coordinate changes, which lets him use his tongue for all sorts of applications.
It doesn't seem to work very well for the sort of precise control you need to click on an icon or open a menu -- your tongue is just way too fast to replicate smooth cursor movement -- but Krasnow thinks it could be an innovative way for navigating simplified carousel menus or replicating simple swipe controls without needing to actually touch anything.