HALLOWELL — Three investors put up $500,000 and he put in five years of his life. Now, inventor Ed Larkin of Hallowell hopes he has the next great thing in gaming.

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

His “ALT” Avatar Motion Controller, three joysticks and a steering wheel on a sleek black hand rest with glowing blue lights, 90% made in Maine, drops online Friday.

In his 40-plus year designing career, Larkin’s biggest hit has been the early 2000s Mouse Bungee, a little kickstand that helped keep computer mouse wires from tangling, which landed him his first million-dollar order after appearances on QVC.

He thinks the ALT can dwarf the Mouse Bungee.

Within game play, the controller replaces the need to type on a keyboard, hitting certain letters, for instance, to jump or crouch, assigning those movements instead to joysticks controlled by the middle finger and thumb.

“This is focused on next-gen gamers,” Larkin, 67, said. “I’m not trying to get gamers that are 25, 40, 50 years old who are used to typing on a keyboard, who have learned the skill of typing to play. This is for the 12-year-olds, the 15-year-olds, even the 8-year-olds, because they’ll learn on 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 key,” Larkin said. “Any game that uses a mouse and keyboard, the keyboard can be replaced by my product and you still get to use the mouse, which is the key — you still get to aim and shoot with the mouse.”

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

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

“Nobody knew about me or my product,” he said. “It was, unfortunately, a waste of time, but there was a silver lining: Out of the 40 people who saw the campaign, like nine people actually ordered. That was 25% of the people who actually showed up — that was very encouraging.”

Instead, he found the three investors, in Maine and New York, and “put up the next five years of my life making everything happen and modifying the design along the way about 100 times,” he said. “The functionality is now 10 times what it was just four years ago.”

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

Sales open on his website Friday with several hundred ready to ship. After that, the controllers move into a preorder. He plans to retail them for $250 with a special $150 launch price.

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

Larkin said he’s already gotten interest from a major gaming company for the controller’s accessibility. The full array of three joysticks means it can be used by either right- or left-handed players.

“It’s nice to make sure everybody can use something you design, especially gaming, because gaming is fun,” he said.

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

Most but not all of the inventions over his career have been gaming-related. There’s also been the Venus Fly Light, a funky flytrap 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 gaming company Razer in 2010 after selling hundreds of thousands of them. Now, he’s excited for this next launch.

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


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