If you’re like most people, everything you do on your computer is controlled by a keyboard and a mouse. This setup has worked well for over three decades, but it isn’t the only way to go. Ergonomic needs and computer games that need subtle inputs have encouraged some firms to come up with some pretty bizarre peripherals over the years. Some work well. Others don’t. And one is simply disturbing.
The late 90s was a golden age of PC gaming and, as a result, a golden age of gaming peripherals. Most were conventional joysticks, but stranger products rose. One of the most unusual was the Titan Sphere, from Second Generation Research Laboratories, an apparently short-lived computer peripheral company.
SGRL’s Titan Sphere essentially took a normal gamepad and snapped it in half, then connected both pieces with a cylindrical housing with joints that allowed each half to move. The idea was that this gave the device joystick-like control with the comfort of a gamepad, and the device could be held in your lap.
Priced at a lofty $129.99, the Titan Sphere targeted Microsoft’s famous Sidewinder Force Feedback, and failed miserably to unseat the champ despite some favorable reviews. The device is now almost mythical, as it’s extremely hard to find and little information about it remains available anywhere online.
iGrip Ergonomic Keyboard And Trackball
This strange, boomerang-like controller is apparently all things to all people, as it’s marketed both as an ergonomic keyboard and a gaming device. With everything so close to your fingertips, you don’t have to worry about stretching for the key you need, and you don’t even have to use a separate mouse. Or, at least, that’s the theory.
In reality, the iGrip’s promise of 50+ words per minute isn’t exactly realistic, nor is the $130 price tag. Gamers worried about the look of Valve’s Steam Controller should take heart – it could have ended up looking something like the iGrip!
OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator
Have you ever wanted to blow up bad-guys in your favorite game with the power of your mind? Well, there’s no need to wait! The future is now with OCZ’s Neural Impulse Actuator.
This device, which was released in 2008, only kind of does what you’d hope. Rather than directly jacking into your brain, its function is mostly based off muscle movements in your face. Instead of throwing a grenade by clicking the left mouse button, you can do the same by growling angrily at your opposition.
Surprisingly, reviewers say the device actually worked, though it could take some time to learn how to use it. Not all actions can be controlled in most games, but most common actions could, significantly reducing the need for a keyboard or mouse. On the downside, though, using the NIA for years would probably cause premature facial aging and plenty of headaches, so the device never caught on.
A standard keyboard is the root of all evil, slowly destroying your wrists, elbows, forearms and more with its uncomfortable typing position. Thankfully, there are ergonomic choices like the SafeType Keyboard, which preserve your wrists by allowing your hands to stay in a more natural vertical orientation instead of twisting into a horizontal position. How does it do this? Simple – just cut the keyboard and half, then flip each half on its side!
This ingenious design has a small flaw, though; the keys become impossible to see while they’re in use, so typing is difficult if you’re not already an expert. SafeType, once again opting for the batty-yet-brilliant route, solves the problem by adding rear-view mirrors. They let you see what you’re typing, and are also great for spotting ninjas sneaking up behind you.
Raildriver Train Cab Controller
Trains are cool, right? They’re fun to watch, they have a loud horn and they’re just about unstoppable. The only thing not cool about them is the thought of actually driving one, as they prove that the old car-reviewer’s cliché about a sports coupe “handling like it’s on rails” isn’t nearly as interesting as it sounds.
Or so we think. But the success of the Train Simulator games shows there are some people who disagree, and if so many people like to drive virtual trains, it was inevitable that someone would make a train controller.
And so it has come to pass.
A company called RailDriver makes the ultimate train simulator with four levers, thirty-four programmable buttons and an LED readout that displays your movement speed! If living on the rails is what gets your engine going, you can grab this controller and live the dream – for $199.95.
How do you use a keyboard with no hands? No, seriously – how do you do it? The answer, of course, is that you don’t, which is a bit of a problem for people with injuries or disabilities that make typing impossible.
The solution is orbiTouch, a futuristic device that looks like it could be either a foot massager or a paperweight on the starship Enterprise. Each side of the device has a sliding dome that can move into one of eight positions, and the combination of each dome’s position determines what key is typed.
OrbiTouch’s creator says it can manage up to 38 words per minute after 15 to 20 hours of use. That may not sound like much, but it’s better than nothing for those who can’t use a standard keyboard.
Force Dynamics 401
Today’s driving simulations are incredibly advanced and can accurately recreate the looks and sounds of many vehicles. There’s one thing they can’t do, though, and that’s re-create the feel of driving. Well, unless you have a Force Dynamics 401.
This contraption, which looks like the brainchild of a mad scientist, hoists three displays and a seat on top of a rotating platform with hydraulic lifts that simulate a vehicles’s movements. When you turn the wheel, the entire platform rotates. When you go over a bump or dip, the lifts raise and lower to simulate the appropriate movement.
If this seems kinda awesome to you, you’re not alone. We do want. Now for the bad news; this incredible contraption can cost over $100,000.. As cool as it is, you’re probably better of buying a sports car and getting some driving lessons.
Peregrine Gaming Glove
What is it about game gloves? They’ve never really worked, and they’re never really been comfortable, yet they also never seem to die off. There’s always some crazy company trying to make game gloves legitimate, and the current bearer of this hopeless torch is Peregrine.
Granted, the last couple of decades have allowed for some advancement from the era of Nintendo’s original Power Glove. Instead of relying on buttons, the Peregrine uses sensors to read hand movements. Input is a matter of moving features into pre-determined positions rather than clicking flimsy plastics mounted to your wrists. That doesn’t make it any more practical, though, because you’ll be flailing your fingers in mid-air to control a game. And you’re still going to look like a dork.
Portable Finger Mouse
Sometimes, weird peripherals are legitimate alternatives to the mainstream – and sometimes they’re just cheap crap. The latter seems to be true of this unbranded Portable Finger Mouse, a trigger-like USB device with a trackball and two buttons, which can be purchased on Amazon for sixteen bucks.
The obvious problem with this finger mouse is the fact it’s meant to be used without a desk, yet it still requires a USB cord to operate. So, while you can be hands-free, you can’t be too far away. And at some point, you’re going to accidentally yank or trip over that cord, possibly destroying a USB port in the process. You’re probably better off spending your money on a of couple lattes; you can use them wirelessly, they’re more enjoyable, and they won’t cause any port-killing mishaps.
Oculus Rift Sex Simulator
Humans have dreamed of virtual reality for as long as the computer has been capable of driving images to a display. Now, with the Oculus Rift, this dream looks close to becoming a mass-market reality, making it possible to experience anything as if you were actually there. And we do mean anything.
Though obviously designed with games in mind, the Rift is open-sourced, so anyone can develop whatever they’d like for it. Even a sex simulator. If you’re imagining some crude device where a, shall we say, “lady substitute” is attached to a mechanical arm and the user views porn through the Rift, you’re spot on. But if you’d for some reason like to leave less to your imagination you can watch the YouTube video. The video is technically work safe, but may kill whatever faith in humanity you have left. Consider yourself warned!