Kiwi Kickstart hopes for iPad gaming case

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Audojo is designed to let iPad users play games with joysticks and trigger buttons. Photo / Supplied
Audojo is designed to let iPad users play games with joysticks and trigger buttons. Photo / Supplied

A US-based kiwi entrepreneur is hoping to raise US$240,000 (NZD$286,600) through crowd-funding site Kickstarter to bring his iPad case for gamers to the market.

Looking to enhance the experience of playing games on iPads, Mark Vinton created a case with two joysticks, two trigger buttons and front-facing stereo speakers.

"I was sitting at some friends' place with the iPhone and I remember thinking 'why don't they just put joysticks on these things?'" said the 36-year old.

"And when the iPad case came out I was like 'this is the perfect platform for playing games'".

Vinton, who had been working at Dolby Laboratories for ten years at the time, knocked up a basic prototype in his San Francisco apartment about three years ago.

"I glued some joysticks on to an existing case and it worked pretty well so I decided to make something out of it."

He eventually teamed up a colleague at Dolby called Matt Tullis to co-found Audojo about a year ago.

"We are creating an iPad case for gamers who want the tactile feedback that they can only get from real analog joysticks and physical buttons," the pair say on their website.

"The case also has front-facing stereo speakers to create a more immersive gaming and video watching experience."

Audojo works on iPads from the 2nd through 4th generation and is powered by a rechargeable battery that uses a Mini-USB connector.

Armed with a prototype, Vinton and Tullis have turned to Kickstarter, a group-fundraising website which allows people to back a product or project in exchange for rewards.

Audojo is the first iPad case truly built for gamers, backers are told.

The early signs are good for Audojo, with 263 people having already pledged a total of nearly $20,000 after just two days on the site.

"We're getting close to the 10 per cent mark but it's still touch and go at this point," Vinton said.

Stephen Knightly, chairman of the NZ Game Developers Association, said Audojo was "a little bit risky" because it would be hard to tell how interest much there was in such a product.

"But that's why Kickstarter makes sense because you can see if there's demand for it."

Knightly said Audojo was attractive in that it plugged into the iPad through the headphone jack. Other gaming cases have tended to connect via bluetooth or Wi-Fi which were slower.

If the Kickstarter bid is successful, it will fund the building of hardware development kits based on the current design.

"Gamers love the possibilities that a touchscreen offers: swipes, multi-touch gestures, contextual buttons and more. But gamers miss joysticks and buttons," the Kickstarter pitch reads.

"We are delivering the best of both worlds in a form factor that combines the best attributes of a physical controller with the endless possibilities of touchscreen controls."

Vinton said there are other gaming cases out there but he was not aware of any built for Apple products or any that connect so easily to a device.

US website joystiq.com estimated that Audojo would come to retail at about US$100.

Vinton has contributed to over 20 patents while working for Dolby and has received two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Engineering Achievement.

He said he graduated with honours in Electrical Engineering from Auckland University about 12 years ago

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