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Watch a Valve engineer experiment with his mouse, butt controllers
December 5, 2013 | By Alex Wawro

December 5, 2013 | By Alex Wawro
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    7 comments
More: Console/PC, Design, Video



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.


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Comments


Lars Doucet
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The most obvious application for this technology is for disabled gamers! Sounds really cool. In case anyone was wondering "Who would want to control a game with their tongue or butt?" The answer is: "someone without arms", among others.

Maria Jayne
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My thought as a disabled gamer was more "what chance does this have of going beyond concept?". Game designers still can't reliably provide options for vision impairment in the form of colour blind options or short sighted difficulties with re-sizing of UI elements.

Comparatively, adding some code for that is significantly less effort and more effective unyet it so rarely happens. I just can't see how such equipment would be made to target such a minority audience considering the huge costs involved.

Is it cool? yes, is it ever going to go beyond an engineer messing about? probably not. A motion control and voice command system, setup on the Occulus Rift would probably be more useful for disabled gamers, since that technology already exists.

Lars Doucet
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True enough, but occulus rift surely started as some weird "unfeasible" r&d project like this, right?

Troy Walker
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how do you get the thing in your mouth if you have no arms?

Maria Jayne
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@ Lars No doubt, but the audience was potentially "everybody" so the possible return on its development would have been far more attractive to an investor.

Chris Dias
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The same way people without arms get most things done, by asking someone else do it. It's better to ask for that than to ask someone to play a game for you.

GDI Doujins
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Oh man, I so miss high school electronics and shop classes!

Little did I know that I would be spending most of my working life writing justification papers and costings.


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