8 Horribly Misguided 'Futuristic' Video Game Controllers
The rest of the gaming industry has gotten awfully jealous of all the money Nintendo is making with their Wii and all its unconventional controllers. Now everybody wants on board the Wiimote/Balance Board gravy train, and sure enough Sony and Microsoft have their own motion controls on the way.
But thanks to some lesser known, state-of-the-art gaming peripherals, other companies are way ahead on game controller innovation. Way, way ahead, into a land where only the crazy people dwell.
Virtual reality has long been the Holy Grail of the video gaming world, because for some reason nothing less than total digital immersion is acceptable in a future where we haven't even figured out how to clone dinosaurs or get our cars to fly.
While most engineers are content with perfecting futuristic headsets and handheld devices to approximate virtual reality, the inventors of the Virtusphere seek to take the notion one step further, a phrase which here means "locking players inside a giant hamster ball."
The Virtusphere is a 10-foot hollow sphere housed on a special platform that is covered in wheels, allowing encased players to walk, run and roll around in a virtual environment viewed entirely through a wireless headset, sort of like that time you taped a Scooby Doo viewmaster to your face when you were nine and ran around in your backyard pretending you were in the Mystery Machine.
This is what fun used to look like.
While we fully support massive unwieldy devices constructed purely for entertainment, a gigantic metal ball noisily grinding around on castor wheels isn't going to fit inside most people's living rooms (you'd have trouble fitting the damn thing in a high school gymnasium).
Even if your house had a big enough room to fit this expensive monstrosity in it, if just one wheel slips you're going to go crashing through the wall trapped inside a hollow boulder like the opening scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Or like a pitcher full of sugar water.
And honestly, we'd pay a lot more for that experience.
OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator
OCZ's Neural Impulse Actuator is a headband that looks like something the space hippies from that old Star Trek episode would wear. According to the company, it "translates the electrical biosignals of your body directly into computer commands."
So that means it can totally read your mind and help you rule Modern Warfare 2 with an iron mental fist, right?
Well, not exactly. The NIA can't translate direct thoughts, so screaming, "SHOOT THE DAMN NAZI!" in your head over and over isn't going to do anything.
"WIN, YOU SON OF A BITCH!" also will not work.
The device doesn't even read brain waves like other emerging technologies claim to. No, all the NIA does is monitor muscle twitches in your face and translates them into on-screen actions. Sometimes.
The idea is that our bodies subconsciously twitch in response to certain stimulus (such as seeing a zombie come into view) and the NIA can translate those spasms into activating the fire button before your brain can tell your finger to move, thus reducing reaction times.
This wink translates to "Kill hooker with a baseball bat."
However, you'd still need a mouse and keyboard to play the game, leading us to wonder what the fucking point of the peripheral is at all, especially when you consider the device has to be calibrated every single time you want to play, which can take up to an hour or more. At least it makes for a pretty boss headband.
3rd Space FPS Gaming Vest
Another emerging advancement on the forefront of video gaming is haptic technology, also known as force feedback, which appeals to the player's sense of touch using various techniques such as controller vibrations and joystick resistance. Makes sense. But surely there must be a way to make it ridiculous and painful, right? Get our best men on it!
Ah, here we go. The 3rd Space FPS Gaming Vest attempts to take force feedback one step further by emulating what it feels like to get hit by a bullet, a sensation which many of you may recognize as one of the primary things you're trying to avoid by playing Call of Duty instead of joining the actual military.
The vest is comprised of eight strategically placed air pockets that are connected to a small air compressor, and when the player gets shot in the game, the compressor fires a burst of air into the corresponding area that delivers a startling kick into the gamer's midsection.
Aside from the obvious fact that a little puff of air hardly simulates what it would feel like to be lacerated by a red hot piece of metal traveling at the speed of sound, the vest has a number of other drawbacks, not least of which is the fact that while the air compressor is small and relatively lightweight, the entire device is still quite noisy, which ironically ruins the immersion that the device is trying to create in the first place by making it sound like you've hauled a lawnmower into battle.
Also, the vest is really only designed for first person shooters on the PC, a fact that is disappointing to anyone who has ever wondered what it'd feel like to get punched in the stomach by Zangief.
When will we finally feel the hairy-shinned sting of the Russian Bear?
All right, we know what some of you are thinking. "Force feedback? Instead of my torso, why don't game makers aim a little lower, if you know what I mean!"
Trust us, they know. That's why we have...
The SOM and The Joydick
Over the years since video games were invented, many attempts have been made to pair them with sex. The results have always been disappointing at best because at the end of the day, it's just porn that you watch while your hands are busy with a control pad. If only there were some device that could translate the suggestive motions of a hot virtual goddess into actual, real life groin molestation.
You thought that was a Photoshopped pic up there, didn't you?
Enter The SOM. No really, enter it, softly, with your dong. Because that's how it works. Bundled with a Japanese Hentai game called Cross Days, the SOM is the video game peripheral serial killers have always wished for.
Until ultimately deciding that having sex with murdered corpses is much less weird.
The manufacturer promises full, real-time interactivity with the erotic game during sexual scenes by way of the device's vertically oscillating head and special medical lube, so that you too can find out what it's like to get blown by a robot while watching a cartoon.
If a hands-free, plastic sex simulator is too hi-tech for you or too difficult to hide from the FBI, rest assured there is another route to achieving interactive orgasms. The aptly named Joydick literally turns an erect penis into an old school joystick for use with Atari games.
More like Dick-fall.
With the simple application of a wired plastic ring, the Joydick allows for "controlling video gameplay based on realtime male masturbation." Because we all know that's been the key to big sales all along.
The Mindwire V5
If getting poked by the FPS Vest or dick-massaged by the SCM doesn't do enough for you, then strap on the Mindwire V5 and get ready to be shocked, literally.
The device is basically a wire splitter that takes input from your controller, converts it into electric jolts and sends them right back into your dumb ass via some special electrode pads.
Basically, any time your controller would normally just vibrate, you get treated to a small but painful electric shock instead. This, evidently, is fun.
250,000 volts of fun.
The device costs $200, which seems like a lot of money to spend when you can get a similar effect by just jamming your nipples into an electrical socket. Also, the Mindwire V5 seems exactly like the sort of thing that you would see strapped to some frat guy riding a bicycle into a swimming pool on YouTube, so needless to say, Cracked is rounding up every last available dollar to fund its research and development.
The Ore Commander
Some would argue that video games were created so that all of the children who were terrible at physical sports and games would have a place to shine. But some theorize that as time goes on we'll raise a new generation of children for whom playing video games is itself too strenuous.
They'll need some kind of simulation that will allow them to pretend to play the games. On the cutting edge of that trend is a company called Periborg that specializes in creating strange mechanical enhancements to the human body in the name of video gaming.
Products like the "Shock C" dining utensil finger-attachments and the unfortunately named "Electric Wang Show" notwithstanding, the Ore Commander is unquestionably Periborg's crown jewel. A gamer simply straps this tiny peripheral onto his or her thumb and, once activated, the Ore Commander vibrates aggressively, allowing the player to rapidly push a controller button faster than what is normally possible, especially with the fragile thumbs of today's youth.
Curiously, the commanding of ore never seems to enter the equation.
Periborg claims the Ore Commander gives gamers the power to push the same button over 20 times per second, which would really be groundbreaking had the same idea not already been done over 20 years ago with the advent of the turbo button, which unlike Periborg's product cannot possibly fracture your thumb.
And considering the "Ore" in the device's name refers to the Japanese word for "me," it seems like the "Me Commander," with its small size and vigorous vibrations, would seem better suited as a Joydick accessory (see above). And frankly, it's probably more fun that way.
Massage Me Jacket
So, clearly playing video games can be pretty strenuous. Shooting Germans, killing zombies and losing at Boom Blox can really take its toll on stressed and weary muscles. However, all that is about to become a thing of the past thanks to some Austrian students and their do-it-yourself ingenuity.
Their quirky Massage Me jacket is actually just a vest that has been modified to include buttons just like those found on regular old gaming controllers, essentially turning the wearer into a giant Power Pad. Basically, one person wears the vest, such as a girlfriend or hostage, while the gamer plays the game by pressing the buttons on the vest, and the wearer gets a massage by proxy (also, they gets molested). The best part is that anyone can build one as long as they're good at sewing and know how to hack apart a PS2 controller.
And you also must be MacGyver.
While this is admittedly an interesting idea, and lord knows men use the massage excuse often enough when trying to get laid that they might as well play some Grand Theft Auto while they're at it, how much fun would it realistically be to use someone else's scoliosis-ridden back as your controller?
Not only that, but last we checked, massages were more about being gentle and precise as opposed to forceful and random, so what happens when you need to keep hammering the A button on your girlfriend's shoulder blade to finish off that wicked Street Fighter combo but she needs some tension relieved down near the select button?
She'll never walk again after this bitchin' solo.
Difficult choices like that are notorious for single-handedly killing even the healthiest of relationships and shouldn't be negotiated by inexperienced players (or dating n00bs, as we like to call them). Like water on a grease fire, mixing video games with foreplay will cause a dramatic explosion and probably burn your house down.
Now that you've donned a clunky vest hooked up to an air compressor, strapped a pain inducing device to your arm, strapped a tiny vibrator around your thumb and turned your penis into a joystick, you're finally ready to fire up the PlayStation for some futuristic, virtual reality gaming.
But wait! Your lame ass gaming chair hasn't yet been modified in the name of total immersion and could ruin the entire experience with its unabashed defiance. Until now.
A company out of Australia seeks to enter the non-existent market of sociopathic game peripherals with the ambitiously named Dream Machine, a floating chair suspended from a large tripod that allows the entire seat to pan and tilt based on the player's movements.
And it kind of resembles a sex swing.
Instead of moving a controller or steering wheel to influence actions within the game like every other sane design we've seen in countless arcade racers and flight sims over the past two decades, the Dream Machine asks players to hold onto a set of handlebars welded onto the tripod and steer the entire chair itself, which then translates into onscreen movement. Essentially, you're playing Pilotwings while sitting in a tire swing.
The potential for serious injury here is noticeably high, as we can easily imagine some bastard child banking too hard to avoid the Red Baron and tossing himself right out the kitchen window.
Also, the Dream Machine's website inexplicably markets the product as "healthy," despite the fact that it is neither an exercise machine nor a bottle of carrot juice. We suppose it could be considered healthy by comparison to, say, a shotgun, because its sole purpose in existence isn't launching bits of metal into living things.
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And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 1.22.2010) to see the Joydick in action (on Bucholz).