Further to the rumour that Apple might be considering an official iOS controller peripheral comes this excellent research from Japan.

A team of engineers from Keio University has put a new twist on the old concept of joysticks that you attach to your touchscreen device - they use a device's front-facing camera.

Eye, eye

The new technology works by covering the camera with a custom designed joystick.

The camera then reads an array of markings on the underside of the joystick that shift into new positions as the player manipulates it through normal gameplay.

Push the stick to the left, and the camera reads that the "left" marking moved, sending feedback to its monitoring software that relays it to the game.

On the other hand

As with all new technology, the research comes with possible upsides and downsides.

On the positive front, this new joystick will not cover any portion of a device's screen, leading to a less obtrusive gaming experience. Theoretically, it could even be positioned on a rear-mounted camera, leaving the entire front of the phone unobstructed.

On the downside, it will deplete battery life faster as the camera will be active and the software will be constantly monitoring the joystick's movements.

And even if the team releases this peripheral for commercialisation, not all smartphone gaming experiences with the camera joystick will be equal: a higher resolution camera can read the markings on the underside of the joystick more clearly than a lower resolution camera.

You can see how it works in the following video.

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