Maine inventor hopes his new gamepad will cause a stir


Ed Larkin sits at the controls of a video game Wednesday at his Hallowell home. He invented the Avatar “ALT” motion controller, under his left hand, and is the CEO of PLA LABS, a games company. He uses the controller to play video games, but says it can be programmed to do a lot of things a keyboard can do. Andree Kehn / Sun Journal

HALLOWELL – Three investors put in $ 500,000 and he took five years of his life. Now, Hallowell inventor Ed Larkin is hoping he gets the next big thing in the game.

PLA LABS ‘new Avatar “ALT” motion controller can be used by left or right handed players and has a mini steering wheel around the center joystick. The Controller is the work of Hallowell inventor Ed Larkin. Andree Kehn / Sun Journal

Its Avatar “ALT” motion controller, three gamepads and a steering wheel on a sleek black palm rest with glowing blue lights, 90% made in Maine, will go live on Friday.

During his 40-plus-year design career, Larkin’s biggest hit was the Mouse Bungee from the early 2000s, a small kickstand that helped keep computer mouse wires from tangling, which earned him his first million dollar order after appearing on QVC.

He thinks the ALT can eclipse the Mouse Bungee.

In the game, the controller replaces the need to type on a keyboard, hitting certain letters, for example, to jump or crouch, assigning these movements instead of joysticks controlled by the middle finger and thumb.

“This is focused on the next generation players,” said Larkin, 67. “I’m not trying to bring in players of 25, 40, 50 who are used to typing on a keyboard, who have learned to type to play. It’s for 12 year olds, 15 year olds, even 8 year olds, because they will learn about my product.

Typing in a game, he argues, is distracting and difficult.

“When you’re really stressed out and people are shooting at you, it’s easy to hit the wrong button,” Larkin said. “Any game that uses a mouse and keyboard, the keyboard can be replaced with my product and you can still use the mouse, which is the key – you can still aim and shoot with the mouse. “

He uses it to play Fortnite, Doom, and Grand Theft Auto.

In 2016, Larkin attempted to launch ALT’s precursor, FPS Hyper-Drive, with a Kickstarter campaign that he was the first to call a “total flop”.

“No one knew about me or my product,” he said. “It was, unfortunately, a waste of time, but there was a silver lining: of the 40 people who saw the campaign, nine people actually ordered. It was 25% of the people who actually showed up, it was very encouraging. “

Instead, he found the three investors, in Maine and New York, and “spent the next five years of my life doing it all and tweaking the design along the way about 100 times,” a- he declared. “The functionality is now 10 times greater than it was just four years ago. “

Larkin, whose game company is called PLA LABS, found a Kennebunkport company to manufacture, assemble, and ship the controllers. He hopes to make them 100% in Maine by next year.

Sales open on its website Friday with several hundred ready to ship. After that, the controllers move on to a pre-order. He plans to retail them for $ 250 with a special introductory price of $ 150.

The Avatar “ALT” motion controller is front and center, surrounded by earlier iterations of the controller. Ed Larkin said he has changed his design “about 100 times” in the past five years. Andree Kehn / Sun Journal

Larkin said he has already sparked interest from a major games company in the accessibility of the controller. The full range of three joysticks means it can be used by either right-handed or left-handed players.

“It’s good to make sure that everyone can use something you design, especially the game, because the game is fun,” he said.

Larkin said he already has five other prototyped gaming products and two more in design. His goal is to sell PLA LABS, and all of those designs, within the next three to five years.

Most of the inventions of his career, but not all, were game-related. There was also the Venus Fly Light, an awesome fly trap that used ultraviolet light. The Flood Guard, a smoke detector-like device with an Alka-Seltzer tablet, alerted homeowners to ceiling leaks.

Larkin sold the Mouse Bungee design to PC game company Razer in 2010 after selling hundreds of thousands of them. Now he’s excited for this next launch.

“I’m still pinching myself a bit because it’s been so long,” Larkin said. “It consumed me. . . Not yet, but soon I will be able to sleep at night and think about something else.

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