Hands On the Sinister, a Modular, Immersive PC Controller

Take your sensory game experience to the next level.

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Tivitas Interactive made the debut of their PC gaming peripheral, Sinister, earlier this week at a pre-CES event called Showstoppers.

The feature that makes the Sinister hardware unique among other gaming controllers is its user-friendly customization. Changing your gamepad configuration is as simple as swapping out button panels to a different location on the device. Though the design may look slightly intimidating to the novice gamer, it actually felt quite comfortable.

The other half of Sinister's innovation is ViviTouch haptic feedback technology, which aims to create an immersive sensory gaming experience. ViviTouch was one of the darlings of last year’s CES. Originally designed to enhance immersion while listening to music, the Sinister's "artificial muscles" produce haptic feedback that's far more nuanced and diverse than simple vibration. Users will feel everything from sharp pops of gunfire to light splashes of water, all translated to individual haptic patterns.

Tivitas took ViviTouch haptics and combined this technology with Sinister’s custom user interface and ergonomic design. According to Sinister’s inventor, Chris Zhao-Holland, the company first experimented with locking the custom button panels, but replaced them with magnets after finding they simplified configuration swapping.

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It's surprising how natural it feels to use the Sinister's controls.

During our hands-on demo at the Tivitas Interactive booth, we loved how natural it felt to use the claw-type design of Sinister. It easily replaces the WASD configuration used in many PC games, and the custom button panels are easily manipulated.

Some of Sinister's other features include:

  • Triplex Relay: This feature allows you to plug a USB mouse into the Sinister interface and enter hybrid mode.

  • Plug and Play: Sinister is able to be used immediately upon plugging in to a USB port, no drivers or software required. Sinister is Windows and Linux compatible.

  • Flux Elements: The custom button panels and analog elements on the Sinister can be swapped and moved around to create a custom controller configuration.

  • Adjustability: The base Sinister unit can be adjusted to fit a variety of hand shapes and sizes. This can also allow you to use it with both an open palm grip and a closed claw grip.

  • RealityLink: Using ViviTouch HD haptic feedback technology, Sinister can provide a diverse range of user feedback for an immersive, sensory gaming experience.

  • Four User Modes: Sinister may be used as a gaming controller, a mouse, a hybrid mouse and keyboard or a mouse combined with a DirectInput device.

Another potentially groundbreaking application for the Sinister is to provide custom configurations for gamers with disabilities. AbleGamers, a nonprofit public charity, has been campaigning for years to improve the customization of games and controllers to cater to people with disabilities. It’ll be interesting to see if similar charities can use controllers like the Sinister to improve the experience for disabled gamers.

The Sinister is in its alpha phase, which means there’s still a lot of room for more work to be done on this gaming peripheral. Considering that the Sinister moved from concept to testing in just six months, the final design may have different features or improvements. The pricing will reportedly be set around $100, and is scheduled to ship in about six months.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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