PAX East 10: Why the Move controller might break less TVs

Don’t expect the same flood of “motion controller smashed my TV” pictures when the PlayStation Move controller hits households this fall. Its axe handle-like grip and glowing sphere are more than just mere design — these two points of interest might save a few TVs from cobwebby doom.

“If you fling it at your TV — you should be wearing a wrist strap — but if you do happen to hit it with the top-end, the TV should win.” Anton Mikhailov, a software engineer in research & development at SCE tells me last afternoon.

“One feature is that the sphere is soft — you can squish it. What that’s for, first and foremost, is safety. So when you hit somebody or drop the device — if you were to make this out of plastic a lot of people were worried that the ball would just snap off. That did actually happen. One of the first prototypes we made, we made it out of plastic. People would drop it and it would just break in half. Now it passes a drop test and stuff.”

I’m squishing the ball in Boston while Mikhailov answers my silly question. The ball is soft, but not cotton candy soft. It feels like a slightly underdone hardboiled egg. I can flatten it with a bit of effort.

“The other nice thing is also the shape of the controller. Naturally, it gets larger towards the bottom. You might have seen this in a hammer or an axe handle. What that’s for, even without the wrist strap, it’s less likely to fling out. Your hand would have to go past this fat part. It’s much more comfortable and stable in your hand.

“Also for a smaller hand, you would naturally move up this smaller part and you would get closer to the buttons whereas a bigger hand would rest farther back. So also for ergonomics, we put a lot of thought into the design of the shape.”

Mikhailov tells me he spent a “year or so” nailing this part of the controller and it does show. One thing I didn’t consider when fiddling with the controller weeks ago during a SOCOM 4 demo was how the controller felt. Now I know: it feels like a natural extension of my hand, just like any good hammer or butcher knife.

Brad BradNicholson