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The PlayStation 4 touchpad and the law of unintended consequences

In today's digital age, it sometimes seems like the hardware has been second to software that drives our devices. Button of the month is a monthly view of what are some of these buttons and switches on old and new devices, and aims to appreciate how we interact with our devices on a physical and tactile level.

As a way to control video games, the touchpad on the PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controller is a failure.

Sony has long used PlayStation control as a place to innovate. Some of these ideas got stuck, like rumble and dual analog sticks. Others, such as PS3's disastrous "Sixaxis" motion controls, were major flaws, used by the release titles and then quickly abandoned.

And while many of Sony's additions to DualShock 4 – such as the light bar and the built-in speaker – are still in use today, the touchscreen interface was one of the first things the developers abandoned, first and third part. despite its prevalence in the early PS4 games as Infamous second son.

The touch bar allows players to control games with swipe gestures as if they were on a phone, and this probably doomed them to failure, as PS4 games are played while looking at a television instead of a screen in their hands. Preventing your eyes from seeing a different thing to make sure you're making the right gesture to open a door or activate a stealth kill simply did not make sense when there were good buttons and triggers that could do the same thing. with a clearer and more tactile efficiency that did not divert his attention. It's the same problem that harms the touch bar of Apple's recent MacBook Pros in microcosms.

But as with so many things in life, there have been unexpected consequences when developers have lost support, and the result is that what should have been the biggest failure of DualShock 4 is actually one of their biggest hits. And that's because the touchpad is not just a simple touch interface: it's also a button. Specifically, a giant button that clicks the entire controller, leaving virtually no wasted space in the middle.

And the developers have intelligently adapted that giant button to the world's longest pause button, overcoming the tiny "options" key that Sony was likely to fill in for that role. And in that role, the touch bar shines.

Pressing the pause button is not something that should be deliberate or clumsy to find the right spot on the controller, as almost all other controller designs are intended for. Because pressing the pause is not usually a premeditated action – it's something urgent, because something in the real world is demanding your exit from the virtual world.

It must be big and easy: the giant red emergency button you press because your pizza delivery is knocking or your phone is ringing or your roommate started screaming because something they were cooking just burst into flames. The touchpad is practically perfect for this: large, pressable on all sides of the controller and impossible to lose.

And who knows? Maybe Sony is already patented touch screen controller can finally perfect the touchpad. As long as you do not get rid of the button.

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