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University invents game controller that tugs the thumb

A new game controller that tugs at the thumb tips has been developed by experts at the University of Utah.

Scientists at the University of Utah claim to have made a significant step in the development of the game controller, by creating one that actually pulls the thumb around.

The idea is that this will allow gamers to experience forces related to the gameplay, such as the pull of a rope or fishing line, the feeling of ocean waves or - far more frequent in modern gaming - the recoil of a gun.

Reactive controllers began many years ago with those chaps at Nintendo, when the Rumble Pack was introduced for the N64 to helpfully point out when you had strayed off the racetrack or been wounded by gunshot.

Since then, vibrating pads have become standard issue, but Nintendo broke the mould again with its movement-based controller for the Wii, followed by the Microsoft Kinect and Sony's Move system for the PlayStation.

Yet not everyone wants to jump around when gaming, so the University of Utah believes there is real scope for advancing the traditional gamepad.

The new device follows the standard two-joystick set-up, with each one surrounded by a ring-shaped tactor, which stretches the skin of the thumb in response to different impacts and forces in the game.

Lead designer William Provancher, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Utah, revealed that this is not just an experiment either, it should be a retail product in the future.

He explained: "I'm hoping we can get this into production when the next game consoles come out in a couple of years."

"We have developed feedback modes that enhance immersiveness and realism for gaming scenarios such as collision, recoil from a gun, the feeling of being pushed by ocean waves or crawling prone in a first-person shooter game."ADNFCR-1220-ID-801311192-ADNFCR