Nvidia's touch-sensing trackball promises mouse-like accuracy in a controller

Nvidia trackball
(Image credit: Nvidia )

An Nvidia patent covering a new type of touch-sensing trackball controller has emerged. Dating from 2019, the patent promises a trackball device that offers the precision of a mouse but with the 'velocity control' of a joystick.

The patent notes that, currently, there’s no such thing as a one size fits all controller for games. “While one type of input, either a mouse input or a joystick input, may be preferred for one type of a game, it may not be preferred, or even compatible, for another type of a game,” the filing explains.

“For instance, a mouse input (e.g., as might be used with a computer system) provides relative movement to a video game by reporting incremental movement in a particular direction, and is particularly useful for video games requiring absolute accuracy and precise positioning.

“On the other hand, a joystick input (e.g., as might be used with a gaming system) provides a video game with absolute offset from center information, and is useful for video games requiring ‘velocity control,’ for example where the more offset from center the joystick there is, the faster a cursor or camera in a video game will move in that direction,” the filing continues.

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The solution, apparently, “ is a game controller that employs a dedicated input, which is capable of the absolute accuracy of a mouse input or trackball input, but is also capable of measuring how far off center the input is (e.g., how far off center it has moved), and can also return to center when released, as is present in a joystick input.”

The result is a single controller that does it all. “The introduced game controller integrates a touch sensing trackball to enjoy the benefits of both the mouse type input and joystick type input, in a single dedicated input, providing a user freedom to play any type of game without worrying about the compatibility of their game controllers,” the patent claims.

Further details of the filing include a processor located within the housing and configured to generate a simulated joystick input and a conductive core to enable the capacitive touch interface. Of course, the annals of gaming history are littered with earlier attempts at game controller alchemy. And yet here we are in 2021 and that keyboard and mouse combo simply refuses to disappear.

It’s not clear whether the controller is a passing patent whim or a device on its way to retail reality and a PC near you. But if it can come close to delivering on the stated premise, well, it would certainly be revolutionary. We probably won’t chuck out our keyboards and mice just yet, however.

Jeremy Laird
Hardware writer

Jeremy has been writing about technology and PCs since the 90nm Netburst era (Google it!) and enjoys nothing more than a serious dissertation on the finer points of monitor input lag and overshoot followed by a forensic examination of advanced lithography. Or maybe he just likes machines that go “ping!” He also has a thing for tennis and cars.