New Game Controller Technology Provides Feedback by Stretching The Skin on Your Fingers

While the Kinect has changed the world of gaming by allowing you to game without a controller, one person has decided to taking game controlling to a new level and fulfill the issue that is rarely addressed: a lack of tactile feedback in controllers. Beyond controllers that vibrate, there is really nothing. However, William Provancher, an associate University of Utah professor of mechanical engineering, has a promising idea for the next generation of feedback for controllers.

His team has figured out that, by installing a small, motorized piece on top of a directional stick, they can stretch the skin on the fingertips of any gamer, and use that stretching to communicate a whole other level of sensation. This is called skin-stretch feedback or shear feedback.

"I had been working on research on providing direction cues using skin stretch on the fingertips for a few years at the point when I started playing video games...and at age 38 I had a heck of a time picking up how to play games like Call of Duty, that require dual thumbstick input. It dawned on me that providing feedback similar to what I’d been working on in my lab might help me pick up gaming quicker."

~Associate Professor William Provancher


About a year later, he and his team figured out all sorts of uses for the technology. Not only has research shown that the technology can do what they discovered but they can do other things like bounce to in-game explosions, drift back and forth to mimic ocean movement and even wiggle when simulating something like a fisherman has a bite on his line.

At this time, Provancher is hoping around the technology can make it into the next wave of consoles. Most likely, though, he is a bit too late. But there could be something down the line with his technology.