Aimpad™ - PC Gaming Analog Keyboard
Want Analog Speed and Direction in PC Gaming? Aimpad™ provides analog gaming control in a keyboard form factor.
Aimpad™ - PC Gaming Analog Keyboard
Want Analog Speed and Direction in PC Gaming? Aimpad™ provides analog gaming control in a keyboard form factor.
The vision of Aimpad™ is to take the familiar gaming keyboard/mouse control and enhance it with full analog movement, without the requirement for developers to specifically program for a new device. This is done by measuring how far down the W, A, S, and D keys are pressed. Play your current games, using the same WASD control you use today, but with the added enhancement of analog movement.
Aimpad™ was founded by a passionate PC Gamer with the vision of Wanting Analog Speed and Direction, but not willing to give up the ridiculous number of configurable keys of the keyboard or the aiming precision of the mouse.
Below compares the jerky gaming experience using a standard keyboard with smooth analog movement using Aimpad:
We measure how far down the mechanical key is pressed using an infrared LED. The light emitted from the LED is reflected off the bottom of the key and an infrared sensor measures how much light is reflected. If a low amount of light is reflected we know that the key is at its highest point. If a higher amount of light is reflected, we know that the key is moving closer to the sensor.
Nikhil, our Electrical Engineering Genius (EEG) describes how this re-engineered "special key" works.
Every backer level that includes a final Aimpad product will include a license of Pinnacle Game Profiler (PGP), a $20 value, so you can play any game the way you want to play it with Aimpad.
While the technology behind Aimpad is awesome, hardware can only be as useful as the software that drives it. That is why we have partnered with PGP to provide full customization of Aimpad.
Here are a few examples of the incredible things you can do when you combine the technology of Aimpad with the deep configuration of PGP:
- Full emulation capabilities. Program Aimpad to act like a DirectInput or XInput gamepad, a normal keyboard, or a mouse.
- Program your mouse to act like a gamepad for those annoying games that disable the mouse when using a gamepad (I'm looking at you Skyrim).
- Make any button do anything... yes, even that.
- Use specialized gaming features like sniper assistant, and rapid-fire buttons.
- Do more with buttons and controls using patented double-commands, cycles, toggles, multiple shift states, and unlimited macro capabilities.
- Get more out of analog controls by inverting axes, adjusting sensitivity on-the-fly, and using analog-to-digital conversion capabilities (e.g., walk or run depending on how far down you press the analog keys even in games that don't support a gamepad at all!).
- Game specific profiles that can be exchanged with other Aimpad users and automatically loaded when you launch the game.
Below is a screen shot of Aimpad being configured with PGP:
We demonstrated the latest Aimpad prototype at PAX East in Boston from April 11th - April 13th. Here are the reactions of just a few of the PC Gamers that were able to try out the prototype:
We hope to have more public demonstrations. In the meantime, check out our web series "Amped About Aimpad". We focus on a single game that works very well with Aimpad and contrast the gaming experience of using a digital only keyboard with the smooth analog movement of Aimpad. No smoke and mirrors, no cherry picking scenes or fancy editing. We do it all in one take (for good or bad). We will add a new episode to YouTube each week of the Kickstarter campaign and potentially more if you enjoy watching them as much as we enjoy making them.
YOU can help make this vision a reality. Simply choose a backer (achievement) level that you are interested in, and you will help make an analog gaming keyboard a reality.
We also need passionate PC Gamers to spread the word about our Kickstarter Campaign to make it successful. Post in the PC gaming forums you frequent. Start discussions on Reddit, Steam, RPS, Polygon, etc. Get PC gamers talking about how different the PC gaming experience can be using analog movement. We'll be right there with you spreading the word.
We want our Kickstarter project to be something more than just a project you back for the sole purpose of getting the desired reward. We think Kickstarter projects should be an experience in which the creators of the project participate with the backers. We want this project to grow from a community of backers. We want your feedback and your thoughts, ideas, and passion to help us create something better than we can build alone. We also want to answer your questions, engage with our backers, and share the story of Aimpad as it unfolds.
We would like to give something back to everyone that participates in our Kickstarter campaign. We have tried to come up with some rewards that PC gamers would actually use, and earn an achievement in the process.
Backer Names Video
We want to do something silly and ridiculous. We want to force Lance to play an Indie PC game that requires skill and constant concentration (maybe something like Assault Android Cactus). While he is playing the game, he will continuously recite the names of all the backers at this level without dying. If he dies, he has to start over. The more backers we have, the harder it will be. Please make this hilarity a possibility!
In an effort to centralize the Aimpad Enthusiast Community you will be given a forum account exclusive to Kickstarter backers. This is where discussions about Aimpad will be monitored and community voting for feedback will occur. This is where we will be hanging out on a regular basis throughout the project, so anything going on with Aimpad will be going on here. Forum accounts will be created for you and will have your backer/achievement level proudly reflected on your account.
These key caps are very high quality. The logo is printed through Dye Sublimation so the logo will not wear off. For those familiar with different key caps these are DSA key caps from Signature Plastics using PBT plastic. If you back the project at a level that includes a final Aimpad product then this key cap will be placed on your shipped Aimpad product to be used as a special function key.
Name in Firmware
Your name will forever be written on our hearts... but more importantly in our code.
Mouse Pad Design
You already have a mouse pad? You don't have an Aimpad gel mouse pad... so your old junky one is worthless. Okay, not really. But these mouse pads are high quality, comfortable, and pretty cool looking. They would make a nice gift for a gamer friend or family member if you don't have a use for it yourself.
You can't game naked... (well, you can... but, please don't) so you might as well game in style.
Final Aimpad Product
This is what is is all about! We will ship you a consumer ready device that meets all our engineering and design goals and that has been refined directly through backer feedback. You will also receive a license for Pinnacle Game Profiler.
LAN Launch Party
We love LAN parties - there's no better way to launch a PC gaming product! The LAN Launch Party will be held at eBash in Indianapolis, Indiana, once the final product is ready to ship. All food and admission will be taken care of. You can bring your own computer or have a computer provided for you. You will be the first to own an Aimpad and get to use it while we game late into the night. We'll record the event to share the experience with backers.
We want real, die hard PC gamers who like to tinker and play with new PC gaming technology. This reward is intended for tech savvy individuals who will provide meaningful and insightful feedback, find bugs and design flaws that will help make the finalized product a success directly through your experiences and feedback. After we have polished the product with your meaningful feedback you will receive your own final version at the LAN launch party.
First, we will send you the Early Fully Functional Prototype as seen in our video. Truly, one-of-a-kind. Then, our near-production ready prototypes will be headed your way. Finally, the final Aimpad product will be yours. Direct one on one email replies with team to all your questions and feedback during design stages. Access to exclusive party before Official Launch LAN Party. You want to participate in the Aimpad Journey in every way possible. Your generosity truly is Over Powered!
LAN Party in Your Home
We've thrown over 100 LAN parties over the past 10 years - we know how to have a great time playing PC games together! Here is a small sample of one of the many LAN parties we've thrown over the years:
Don't worry - if you provide the people, we'll provide the fun! We'll bring everything you need (food, drinks, networking equipment, etc.), we'll set everything up, and we'll play games with you late into the evening! We'll bring your final Aimpad product with us! We'll provide an extra final Aimpad and other Aimpad goodies for tournament prizes! We'll record the event to share the highlights of the evening with backers.
Several different solutions to an analog keyboard were considered. Potentiometers were too awkward and didn't fit the physical constraints of a keyboard very well. Hall effect sensors were too expensive. The very first prototype hacked an existing gamepad and utilized pressure sensors that measured the pressure applied to the button. It worked!
However, we found pressure sensitivity did not translate well into gaming control. If you pressed a key really hard the game characters would react appropriately, but you had no way to tell if you were pressing hard enough to be moving as fast as possible. This quickly led to fatigue and unnecessary strain. Pressure also does not convey movement very well. For example, if you were steering a car it isn't how hard you push a steering wheel that makes you turn sharply. Your wheels rotate based on how far you move the steering wheel from its center position. We determined that pressure was a poor measure for an analog gaming keyboard. A gamepad determines the speed and direction a character moves based off how far from the analog stick is moved from the center resting position. We determined if an analog keyboard were to be as effective as an analog stick for controlling movement in games we needed to measure how far down the keyboard key was pressed.
The current Aimpad prototype uses patented technology that measures how far down a mechanical keyboard key is pressed with exceptional accuracy. By measuring how far down two of the WASD keys are being pressed simultaneously, we extrapolate an X-Y axis coordinate that makes the PC game behave exactly as if a joystick were being used. This is useful for gaming control because there is a distinct relationship between how you move your fingers and how a game character or vehicle reacts to that movement on screen. There is also a very distinct bottoming out of a mechanical key that indicates it is being pressed as far down as it can go reducing unnecessary fatigue.
We know the core technology of Aimpad works. However, we are still very much in the prototyping phase. We have two main engineering goals that we want to accomplish before we feel Aimpad would be ready for PC gamers: 1) develop a gaming optimized key layout and 2) design an ergonomic and attractive enclosure.
Our latest prototype, which we will be demonstrating at PAX East, is focused on identifying the effectiveness of different key layouts. By incorporating our latest technology we have the freedom to place analog and digital keys anywhere we want. The traditional keyboard is designed for typing not for gaming. While we love the WASD key layout, this doesn't necessarily mean that it is the most optimal and comfortable for gaming. We want to keep the essence of the WASD key layout, but explore other ways to arrange keys to make them more useful and comfortable while gaming.
The size and spacing of several keys on a keyboard are counter productive for gaming purposes. For example, the thumb in a traditional WASD key layout is often used for one button: the space bar. Why should all the other fingers have all the fun? The caps lock key and Windows keys are also in prime locations to be reached by the pinky finger but generally just get in the way of gaming. Lastly our fingers are oriented vertically on a keyboard but the larger buttons on a keyboard (like shift and tab) are oriented horizontally. We want the experience of using Aimpad to be familiar to keep the learning curve low, but we feel there are improvements that can be made to gaming keyboards simply by adjusting the size, location, and orientation of the keys.
We will make the enclosure more ergonomic and go through extensive usability testing for comfort and style. Our plan is to post several designs for Kickstarter backers to review and vote on for the final design. If you have some design ideas you'd like to submit and the community votes to use your design we'll fairly compensate you. We want the community we build on our forums to directly shape what the final design looks and feels like!
Here is an example of one conceptual drawing that gives you an idea of the kind of key layouts and enclosure designs we are exploring:
In order to make our goals financially feasible we have decided to develop a stand alone gaming device. This allows gamers that have already invested in a mechanical "gaming" keyboard to continue to use that for their general typing use and not take away their Cherry MX switch preference. We realize that many keyboard enthusiasts like to have a specific feel to their keyboard through various different Cherry MX Switch Types (Blue, Brown, Green, etc.). Due to the analog functions of our prototype it makes the most sense to use a linear switch (IE Cherry MX Black or Red). We didn't want to force people that may prefer other tactile responses from their keyboard to use a linear switch that has no tactile "bump" or audible clacking sound. That being said, our long term goals include integrating Aimpad analog key technology in a full keyboard (because frankly, this should be a standard feature on every gaming keyboard!). However, there are significant costs associated with additional tooling, a more powerful microprocessor, more complex circuit, larger circuit board, and significantly more Cherry MX switches. After successful funding we will provide a number of stretch goals that will make our final product even better. If we can justify the financial expense of designing and manufacturing a full keyboard then that will be one of our stretch goals.
Below is a listing of the currently planned primary features that will make up the final product:
- 8-10 programmable analog keys that function as one of 5 Joystick Axes (X Axis, Y Axis, Z Axis, Rx, and Ry) using Cherry MX Linear Switches. These keys can also be programmed to use digital keystrokes or game pad buttons.
- 20-24 programmable digital buttons that can be programmed to use digital keystrokes or game pad buttons for a total of at least 28 programmable keys.
- Familiar WASD Keyboard layout to provide low learning curve, but have a layout where more keys are accessible to more fingers that often go under utilized on a traditional keyboard (like providing multiple keys to the thumb).
- At least one analog key and 2 digital keys easily reachable by each finger.
- Ergonomic community driven ambidextrous design. The key layout will be balanced and equally usable with either the left or right hand.
- Open Source Firmware based on LUFA offering a wide variety of configurations and flexibility to change the underlying hardware to suit your needs.
- Complete integration with Pinnacle Game Profiler for easy configuration and full customization of your Aimpad experience.
- Removable white key caps to use custom key sets if desired.
- Removable Mini USB Cable so you can set your desired cable length (a 6-8 ft cable will be included).
Our production estimates for this Kickstarter are based on manufacturing 1000 units. There are a few reasons for this. 1000 units is usually where decent price breaks start to happen on components and it makes it feasible to produce a product at a somewhat reasonable price. 1000 units also demonstrates and establishes a market for an analog gaming keyboard. Lastly, we feel that ~1000 backers is a reachable goal for Kickstarter. We carefully weighed what we felt was a reasonable cost to Kickstarter backers with how much it actually costs us to make the finalized product. For example, if we planned to make only 500 units it would have forced us to charge over $175 per unit just to cover our cost of components and plastics. We didn't feel that was a fair price and it would limit the number of people willing to back the project. Plastic moldings are not cheap. Advanced micro processors, cutting edge sensors, and Cherry mechanical switches can get stupidly expensive in lower volumes. We aren't just throwing a random number out there in the hopes that we get more funding than what we say we need to make this project happen. Months of planning carefully, nailing down quote estimates, setting up business relationships, and making accurate projections were put into this project to ensure that we can accomplish what we say we can accomplish. We have analyzed nearly a hundred other Kickstarter projects similar to ours to see where their shortcomings were and what we can do to minimize the chances of making those same mistakes.
After a successful Kickstarter we will immediately begin work on finalizing the design through backer feedback. Once the design is in a near finalized state we will produce a handful of prototypes for the "Beta Tester" Backers for further feedback and refinement of the design. When the hardware is in a state we are confident in, we will begin to execute our production plan of creating molds for all the plastics involved, acquiring all the necessary components, building PCBs, assembling components on the PCBs, completing enclosure assembly, and testing the final unit. We plan to complete certifications to ensure the product exceeds the quality and safety standards of a typical consumer device.
Our current plans are to manufacturer and assemble the majority of our product through various companies in the United States. We feel that producing our product domestically (especially at a lower volume) will provide us a greater amount of control and oversight to the process and ensure that every part of the process meets our high level of expectations. While manufacturing overseas may ultimately be cheaper, we feel that quality and customer satisfaction trumps the bottom line.
The above is our projected timeline. We have tried our best to allocate enough time to accomplish each part of the project in a reasonable amount of time. As with all project timelines, many of the tasks are interconnected and dependent on other tasks in the project. If one task gets delayed then all related tasks also get delayed. We will do our best to stay ahead of schedule. While 9 months may seem like a long time to accomplish this project, we do feel it is a realistic goal.
Risks and challenges
As with all projects, delays should always be expected and planned for. Our prototype (and expected final design) relies upon off the shelf components, and as such, are susceptible to supply of these components. Unavailability of these components may lead to unexpected delays in assembly and production.
While the existing proof of concept prototype is completely functional, as we refine the design (through backer feedback), unexpected limitations or design constraints may become uncovered through Quality Control and Certification processes. This will lead to further needed engineering efforts that will increase the time line. Delays in Manufacturing and Shipping can also occur for any number of reasons. If any of these setbacks do occur we will provide timely updates to all backers to keep them informed of these delays to hopefully minimize any unrealistic expectations. We anticipate being in contact with the Kickstarter Community on a regular basis and look forward to sharing the story of our project as it unfolds. If something awesome happens in the project, you'll definitely be hearing about it, and we hope to get your feedback. If something unfortunate happens in the project, we'll hope you'll be there to commiserate with us, and help motivate us to overcome any setbacks until the project is successful.
If our funding goal is exceeded we can start to implement new features and capabilities beyond our basic goals. We will monitor the progress of the campaign and provide stretch goals as appropriate. However, as more stretch goals are reached this may extend the time it will take to implement the new features.
To be very clear, Aimpad is not a completed product. You are not going to throw your money at the screen and a final Aimpad product is going to pop out of your Kickstarter funded 3D Printer (though maybe someday soon!). The money you provide through backing this project is not to just purchase a cool product, but to help provide funding for the engineering costs, manufacturing costs, and shipping costs to make a long journey possible. At the end of that long and exciting journey it is our hope that we will all have built something awesome. We want you to use it and feel proud to know you backed it and made it all possible.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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