Meet the Aimpad: the prototype peripheral bringing analog control to WASD | PCGamesN

Meet the Aimpad: the prototype peripheral bringing analog control to WASD


You are a PC gamer. When the subject comes up, you’ll argue mouse and keyboard over analog controller to the death, and mean it.

But then there’s that thing you do in Project Cars when the 360 pad’s plugged in, squeezing the right trigger just so to come to a perfect, unscreeching halt. And during Assassin’s Creed loading screens, you’ll try your utmost to cycle through Kenway’s run animations as smoothly as possible.

It’s okay to say it: analog control is nice. Aimpad’s promise is that you won’t have to leave behind the keyboard to enjoy it.

The Aimpad is a peripheral that you plug into a USB slot. Designed to sit under your left hand, it looks like a roughly-cut segment of keyboard, and functions much the same. 

But an infrared LED replaces the binary button beneath each key, and measures precisely how far down you’re pressing according to how much light is reflected.

“The computer mouse has evolved from using a ball, to an optical sensor, and finally a laser,” write Aimpad's makers. “These advancements in mouse technology have made an actual gaming improvement in the way we play PC games. We can aim with much better precision using a laser mouse than we can with a ball mouse.

“There have not been any similar improvements to keyboard technology that provide any meaningful improvement for controlling PC games. Until now.”

The problem with any new piece of hardware is developer support - but the makers of Aimpad reckon they’ve smoothly circumvented that issue by bundling the pad with a Pinnacle Game Profiler license.

PGP allows the Aimpad to be recognised as a DirectInput or XInput gamepad, a normal keyboard, or a mouse, according to the quirks of the game you’ll be using it with. It’ll enable granular adjustment of key sensitivity - and crucially, stop games like Skyrim from disabling the mouse when using a gamepad.

Using the software, we'll be able to save specific profiles to individual games, to be loaded up automatically on start-up.

Why the future tense? The Aimpad is currently a prototype, and its creators have decided it needs Kickstarter backing to become a commercial product.

A guarantee of the final product is pricey, at $119 minimum - though a variety of lower tiers let interested parties contribute in return for arbitrary rewards and a warm, fuzzy feeling. Are you tempted at all?


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Myrdraal avatarGwathdring avatar
Myrdraal Avatar
4 Years ago

WASD is an unergonomic clusterfrak and has never been, nor will it ever be, a decent way to game. One can get used to it as one can get used to nailing nails with a flat rock and deem excellent, but it just isn't the tool for the job. The idea of analog stick is a great one, and is what future keypads should go with. Why most went with an 8 way stick is beyond me, but they still completely obliterates the ease of gaming of any keyboard out there. Truth is that, objectively, WASD has always been a crutch for lack of a decent gaming alternative. 3-finger movement is a barrier to overcome, not encourage.

Gwathdring Avatar
4 Years ago

WASD is not ergonomic, I'll give you that. But it is significantly more efficient than the Thumbstick setup. Consider how much of your hand is in the game on a keyboard as compared to a gamepad. Valve's monstrosity goes someway to alleviating that gap with it's back-of-the-controller paddle buttons, but it is something worth considering nonetheless.

WASD doesn't take up three fingers, exactly. It takes up to three fingers up to two at a time. This is relatively efficient when you consider that the keyboard setup gives you five fingers that can press over a dozen buttons compared to a gamepad which gives you far fewer buttons and only two trigger-bound fingers and a thumb with which to operate the left-hand side of the rig. This is much less efficient.

I'm not sold on the concept of the Aimpad but nor is the gamepad an ideal solution. The standard handful of gamepad designs are excellent hand-held controller setups that balance ease of use with efficiency and ergonomics but could use work in all three of those categories for applications more specific than the elusive One-In-Every-Living-Room game-plus-extra-stuff console.

A keyboard stays still. It shouldn't have an analog stick on it--that's a kludge that comes about from needing something that can be held in the hand while it is in use. Suggesting we improve the problems with keyboard controls by adopting the highly-specialized niche evolutions of devices with very different physical contexts is like suggesting humans really need to get with the times and develop some gills--look how well it does for the fish! It's not a very coherent way to look at gaming peripherals. Keyboards have a very different physical context from gamepads and that context requires very different solutions no matter HOW ineffective and kludgy keyboards are in isolation.

Highly sensitive track and touch pads are probably the future of static control surfaces, but we're a long way off from making those superior to a standard keyboard for most gaming applications.

Gwathdring Avatar
4 Years ago

Hmm. Developer support will make or break this concept. I think a lot of developers will just want to hold out for better touch-based technology so that the methods apply more broadly to tablet-pc and tablet interfaces rather than spend time and resource on this sort of "analog" keyboard.

It's an interesting idea, but would probably be even more interesting if it was also a proper keyboard rather than a weird section of one. I understand that sticking to the control layout of a keyboard is not necessarily the best way to make a game-centric device, but one of the main advantages of a keyboard is it's dual-purpose use as both a controller and a typing interface--losing the ability to type properly in chat-boxes and to switch between games and normal computing quickly and efficiently would be a real shame.

I don't see this thing taking off as it is. I honestly think it would be better off as a normal-shaped keyboard with the new optical tech rather than a game-specific controller.