Tech Review: Tavitas Sinister Gamepad

January 9, 2014
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My youngest thinks it’s hilarious when I say old fart things like, “There was a time I remember before rumble came into gaming.” Yeah, I’m a barrel of giggles. But, really, it’s true… rumble effects changed gaming from something new and gimmicky like, say, the Rubik’s Cube into a total immersive and addictive experience. Of course, it’s now been part and parcel of console gaming for over two decades as well as being a mobile phone fixture. How is it then that PC gamers actually have to cough up extra hard-earned dosh if they want force feedback?

Well, there’s about to be a new status quo. Tavitas, a Canadian company out of Hamilton, Ontario, has exactly what you gamers need, on its way within the next six months, through its brilliant Sinister Gamepad, which its advance people assure me will retail for no more than US$100. Cheap is always sweet. Better yet, however, is the Sinister’s innate adaptability.  You can take buttons out and move them around, personalizing your gamepad’s configuration to your liking.

tavitas sinister gamepad

It’s perky inventor, Chris Zhao-Holland is proving to be one of the stars of the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas. Zhao-Holland gave a 3D-printed prototype of the Sinister a short but stunning demonstration. More than a few critics are pouty-mouthed over the question as to whether the Sinister Gamepad‘s customization factor necessarily translates into better gaming. Orthodoxy is often the byword when it comes to gaming geeks. Altering the way we see and accept things can mean years of research going down the toilet for the likes of Zhao-Holland, who truly does ‘think different.’ Atypical in this case is what the inventor has done to the analog stick, which sits sideways when aligned with your thumb. Sideways hand movement means reconnection that admittedly needs a kind of willingness to relearn. It, too, will be moveable, with parts connecting to the base through magnets. Magnets, according to Zhao-Holland, are the components that allow speedier switching between scores of configurations.

The design has also gone through a number of drastic changes. What it actually looks like seems to be the least important thing to the inventor. For me this may prove the product’s biggest weakness. Atypically, at one point, Tavitas had two models of the Sinister that were produced just two weeks apart, but with alternate styles. In the long run, however, the Sinister‘s innate adaptability and low price may mean customers can custom-order in a sort of do-it-yourself a-la-carte way.

The rumble really feels very fun and comfortable. Perhaps that seems silly, but there’s a brand-new embedded, programmable artificial muscle called ViviTouch where your wrist rests. ViviTouch brings a new sensory dimension to gaming where you actually feel what you see and hear, whether it’s crashes, booming explosions, the roll of a pool ball, or the roaring engine of a Formula II racecar. Simulating the subwoofer effects in a big movie experience, ViviTouch translates thousands of sensations into a versatile language of tactile feedback through the palm of your hand. It broadcasts ripples up your body while you play. Instead of using a motor, the technology creates the sensation using electronic signals. This fun factor can be used at will and offers up all kinds of motion possibilities. There will also be added tools to tweak the vibration, and toggle different rumble modes for different game types.

The Sinister will be plug-and-play with both Windows and Linux machines when it comes out. The company will also release an app to add extra features as they come up over time.

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  1. That’s like a fixed mouse with a nipple attached to it

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