Microsoft Surface Used as a Big Games Controller

Touchscreen gaming, like it or not, is soon going to be huge. Some would say that gaming on touchscreens is already big and here, and not in the way of the Nintendo DS, but the iPod touch, iPhone and all the Android phones that rely entirely on the touch screen for input.

What, then, will become of the control interfaces for more hardware games that require a controller or mouse and keyboard? Nobody knows yet, but University of Massachusetts Lowell Robotics Lab student Eric McCann seems to have an early idea of what it could be like.

Using Microsoft's experimental Surface table experiment, McCann hacked together a controller interface that uses both hands on the screen to control Microsoft Flight Simulator as well as Valve Software's Portal.

While it's not a perfect solution since your hands are still covering screen real estate, it's still a fascinating exercise that could point to how we someday may play hardcore games.

Check out the video demo below:

(via Kotaku.)

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • thorkle
    This seems applicable for flight simulator, but portal looked very strange with those controls. I think it would be best if there were more specific control schemes for various games.
  • TheStealthyOne
    I dunno if I like this; leaving a tangible interface doesn't sound ideal :/
  • willgart
    interesting... not sure if its really useful as your hands will hide part of the screen all the time. and appear to not be comfortable in a horizontal position. certainly more powerful in a vertical one.

    maybe another touchscreen at the bottom of the device (like a keyboard in a laptop) will be better.
    In fact 2 touchscreens... then you can play with somebody else in front of you while sit on a comfortable chair (and you share the surface between the 2 users).
    Will be incredible for a wargame, you can have a touchscreen with some information in front of you and you can type commands here, and you can point the map on the surface itself to move the units...

    The idea of having a touchscreen instead of a keyboard could be really great, no more keyboard shortcuts but real dynamic icons, like an RPG game where you have your shortcut bar with your actions, these actions can be displayed on the "virtual keyboard" as well as life, stamina etc...
    (I think some next gen laptop will be like this)

    But I like the controller on the screen, appear to be really dynamic.
    is it working on a tabletpc ?
  • tu_illegalamigo
    I dont like it, at least not yet. I will cling to my sticks and buttons for a bit longer. I wonder how responsive it is, and perhaps how comfortable as well.
  • Specter0420
    This would be awesome for a game like DCS: Black Shark with its clickable cockpit buttons! Just imagine looking around with your trackir, flying with a joystick, and reaching up and pressing the buttons/flipping the switches in the cockpit, total immersion! Then again a normal touchscreen would do just fine as well.
  • SoiledBottom
    + 1 to The crystal Method
  • kelemvor4
    Controllers aren't going anywhere; at least not as a result of touch screens. Hell, keyboard and mouse circa 1980's is still the king for controlling most games.

    Sure if you want to play farmville or pong, touch screen is good enough, but that won't hold true for "real" games.
  • ares1214
    This plus the table thing they have should be interesting. Unless it gets beat to the punch by the iCoffee Table and the iHave My Hands on Said Coffee Table...
  • troger5troger5
    I see it being good for menu's, view screens, turning on ecm jamming in a flight game etc, but the point of a similator is to simulate and having a ch throttle and flight stick or a stearing wheel / foot pedal etc can never be replaced by touch. I can see having something that sits like at an angle above your keyboard and below your monitor for switching settings, viewing maps , etc would be great without having to switch to these screens and then finding your button to push... Starcraft / warcraft II type games would be interesting........just my thought
  • eyemaster
    They keep trying to have touch screens and games put together. Unless you create a different game than what exists today, it's not going to merge properly. When you plan a first person shooter, you need a controler of some kind, to mimic real life. If you plan a RTS, then you need some kind of mouse, touch screen sounds good but your arms will get tired and you will miss visual cues as you'd have both hands over the screen managing things.

    I guess I lack the imagination necessary to see where a touch screen is useful for gaming.