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Inventor Unveils a Replacement for the Gaming Keyboard

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(Photo: PLA Labs)A gaming hardware designer who previously worked with Razer has unveiled what he believes is the future of gaming for first person shooters (FPS) on PC, and it’s actually a unique design unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. It’s called the Alt Avatar Motion Controller, and it jettisons the keyboard part of the “keyboard/mouse” combo that the vast majority of PC gamers use today in favor of a new controller design that’s used with a mouse for what the inventor thinks is the best of both worlds for FPS games on PC.

The device is the brainchild of Edward Larkin, who invented the mouse bungee and eventually sold it to Razor, according to his website. He says he was unhappy with the clunkiness of the typical keyboard for gaming, and set out to design a custom device better suited to FPS games, and one that would also work with racing games, as we all know trying to fly a plane or drive a car using a keyboard is usually not enjoyable. The controller looks sort of like a trackball device, with its gentle slope that allows you to rest your wrist on it comfortably. From there your index finger graces a central wheel and joystick, with two joysticks on either side.

The Alt Avatar Motion Controller with its triple joystick configuration. (Image: PLA Labs)

From watching several of the site’s demonstration videos on how it works, the gist is you lay your index finger down on the main joystick in the center of the controller, then lightly grasp the “steering wheel” below it with your fingers. You just press forward on the joystick to move, then spin the steering wheel to adjust your direction. You can also do things like move the joystick right for the “E” command, which is heavily used in PC games for picking up items and opening doors. Alternative commands can be activated by tapping the side joysticks with your thumb and pinky. There’s also an “8 button program group selector matrix” on the main joystick, so perhaps you can switch Macro groups with it.

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On his website, Larkin says he spent the last six years in R&D on the Avatar controller, and that he will ready to take pre-orders at some point in the near future. However, due to the chip shortage he infers they won’t reach mass production any time soon, so his company will only make enough to fulfill pre-orders. According to PCGamer, each unit will cost $250, which is about the same price as a flagship gaming keyboard, but way more expensive than most keyboards, even ones with RGB lighting. Larkin says part of the reason for the high cost is the controllers will be made in America, where labor is more expensive than the traditional manufacturing hubs such as China and Vietnam.

The Avatar controller will only be made available with Windows drivers, which shouldn’t surprise people. Due to the limited quantities they will theoretically make, the website’s FAQ also notes “all sales are final,” but the company will offer a one-year warranty on “manufacturer defects,” which are at the manufacturer’s discretion, so buyer beware definitely applies here. Attempts to reinvent the keyboard as a primary method of gaming input for PCs have typically failed, despite several decades of various efforts.

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