In today's digital age, it sometimes feels that hardware has taken the back seat into the software that drives our devices. Button of the month is a monthly view of what some of these buttons and switches are on old and new devices, and trying to appreciate how we communicate with our devices at the physical and tactile levels.
As a way to control video games, the touchpad on the DualShock 4 PlayStation 4 controller is failing.
Sony has long used the PlayStation controller as a place to innovate. Some of these ideas were stuck, just like rumble and dual analog bars. Others, like the catastrophic PS3 drivers "Sixaxis," were more failures used in starting titles and then quickly abandoned.
While many of the additions made by Sony to DualShock 4 – such as a light barrier and an integrated loudspeaker – are still in use today, the Touch Interface was one of the first things left by developers (both first and third), despite its superiority in early PS4 games as it is Infamous: The second son.
The touch bar allows players to control games with gestures as if they were on the phone, and it was probably doomed to failure, because PS4 games are played by watching TV rather than the screen in your hands. When you turn your eyes to look at another thing to make sure you're making the right gesture to open the door or activate the secret killing, it simply did not make sense when there were perfectly good buttons and triggers that could do the same with clearer more tangible effectiveness that did not turn you off. It's the same problem that hurts the touch bar on the recent Apple MacBooks in the microcosm.
But as with many things in life, unplanned consequences have occurred because developers have dropped out of support and the result is that the biggest failure of DualShock 4 is actually one of his greatest successes. And that's because the touchpad is not just a flat touch interface: it's also a button. Specifically, a giant click button that spans the entire controller so virtually no empty space in the middle.
And the developers cleverly redesigned this giant button into the world's biggest pause button, hitting the little "options" that Sony probably wanted to fulfill. And in this role the touch panel lights up.
Pressing the pause button is not something to consider or crack to find the right place on the control unit, because almost every other design of the controller intends. Because pausing is not usually intentional – it's something urgent because something in the real world requires a virtual exit.
It should be great and easy: a huge red emergency button you press, because your pizza delivery is knocking, the phone rings, or your roommate just started screaming because something that just cooked crashed into the flames. The touchpad is practically ideal for this: large, compressible on all sides of the controller and impossible to omit.
And who knows? Perhaps Sony is already patented Touch screen the driver would finally be a perfect touch panel. Just for as long as they do not clear the buttons.