Saturday, December 13, 2008

A crazy idea I've had for a while

Every console this generation has its own rumbling, force-feedback controller, each offering a little extra to the level of immersion we feel when we play. All this time, though, I don't think I've ever seen anything of the sort even thought of for computer mice. Of course, there's the obvious idea of adding rumble, but I've got one other idea that will take things that one step further...

Above you see a mess of black dots scattered about the borders of a faint image of a mouse. Every one of those dots is a ball bearing that will move freely with the movement, able to roll in any direction. This would allow the mouse to respond to in-game situations, rolling backwards and forwards, left and right, and even rotating in place.

In the above image I added five red dots. These represent five different powered ball-like wheels that work much like an old trackball mouse in reverse: Instead of the rolling mouse ball spinning the wheels inside for input, the wheels inside this force-feedback mouse spin by way of small motors, causing the drive wheels to spin and move the mouse as a form of output. The ball bearings will roll smoothly in whatever direction the powered balls go. When no force-feedback is being applied, the drive wheels for the powered balls will unlock and allow the mouse to move smoothly so as to not interfere with the player's input.

So, this is great and all, but what are the applications? One example is in the game Half-Life 2. Enemies can pistol whip the player, causing their viewing angle to tilt up as recoil. With my force-feedback mouse, though, instead of the game automatically tilting the viewing angle up, the mouse would instead slide down on the mouse pad as recoil. If the player sees the pistol whipping coming, they can lock their hand in place to simulate bracing themselves. Then, when the butt of the gun connects, they'll be able to prevent the mouse from wheeling backwards too far.

Another example would be to physically lock the mouse in place when the player is stuck, paralyzed, or otherwise immobile. This would help break the divide between player and fantasy a bit during locked-camera scenes, making it so that the player is just as immobile as their character. Being able to move your mouse at a time when it has no effect just breaks the illusion for me.

As for those four corner balls, they can be used for rotating the mouse in place. This could come in handy if the player is being spun around or something, although for practicality's sake it wouldn't spin more than, say, 45 degrees. Sending the mouse into an uncontrollable spin would probably be a bad idea, especially if said mouse isn't wireless.

Well, that's my drastically-different-from-when-I-first-thought-it-up idea for a force feedback mouse, which I'm sure could have rumble incorporated as an addition. What do you think? Is this too drastic, or maybe not drastic enough? Let your thoughts be heard in the comments section, or this forum thread.


Anonymous said...

Ya but what about a labtop they have a trak pad the best they can do is vibrate

from Coach Z

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a cool idea, in theory, anyway. I'm not sure how fun it would actually be to have the mouse pushing around from enemy impact. But I'd like to try something like that if it were an existing device (as opposed to a hypothetical one).

Having a "track pad" vibrate would not be a good idea, that might shake loose important things in the computer. Anyway, don't laptops generally have USB ports? You can plug in a real mouse that way.