Since bringing news of the release of a limited supply of evaluation Ringbow prototypes in April last year, quite a few changes have been made to get the "touchscreen gaming accessory" ready for production. Developers Efrat Barit and Saar Shai have enhanced the directional pad on the outside of the device and narrowed down its main user base to mobile gamers, where the extra control would doubtless be most welcome. It's also moved beyond its Android-only confines to other platforms and includes an internal battery that's said to be good for at least five hours of continuous use.
Ringbow is a gaming accessory that enhances the way a touchscreen is used and is designed to take the best bits of a computer mouse and a gaming joystick and combine them into one device on a user's finger. Like last year's prototype, the pre-production model wirelessly links to devices via Bluetooth, but looks to be a good deal slimmer. It's now said to automatically integrate with a mobile device's operating system, and users and developers can set functionality according to preferences or requirements.
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Featuring an adjustable grip mechanism, Ringbow is worn on the index finger so that its 9-way directional control pad is within reach of the thumb. It's used simultaneously with onscreen touch action to enhance input capabilities, allowing for "multi-layered and simultaneous operations, manipulation of non-visible interface elements, interaction with out-of reach visuals and even transforms touch devices into a multi-player platform where gamers can play with friends or compete against them."
"We've conducted a pilot with AT&T to research market readiness and potential, established a manufacturing partner and worked with the top designer Andrew Hartman to transform Ringbow into the nifty product it is now," Barit told us.
Limited financial resources for the final push toward production has led to Ringbow being presented to the crowd funding community on Kickstarter where an early bird pledge of US$35 was enough to secure a black model. This funding level is no longer available, though, so those wishing to support the project will have to stump up at least another $10, but there are four more colors available to tempt you. Once the funding campaign is over, the device will be priced at $50 to $80, depending on model.
Of course, as with the earlier prototype, Ringbow can be useful for much more than mobile gaming. The developers say that it could be used to scroll browser pages without needing to touch the screen, answer incoming calls while driving, or even act as a remote control for televisions. More features and functionality are on the horizon thanks to the Ringbow SDK being made available to third party developers.
As a mobile gamer myself, I'm quite looking forward to the promise of joystick-like control of gameplay without having to actually stick a joystick on my phone or tablet.
Here's the Kickstarter video pitch for the Ringbow.