Newsflash: touchscreen controls are almost universally bad. They're so bad that companies like Sony, Archos, and NVIDIA have created entirely new devices just for the novelty of shoving console-style physical controls onto Android hardware. There's got to be a way to make make non-tactile control schemes suck less. This Kickstarter project... isn't it.

They're stickers. Stickers for your screen, shaped like controller buttons. How bad is this? Oh, let me count the ways.

The idea behind the Invisible Gamepad isn't all that terrible - place some thin, translucent, capacitive controls over a touchscreen, and it's at least better than nothing, right? Logitech had a pretty similar idea with its clip-on joypad, which itself is a shameless copy of the Fling controller. But the implementation here is laughably bad. For one thing, you've got a static, physical system meant to augment dynamic controls which will change with almost each and every game. (The designers have tried to accommodate this with different shapes and sizes for D-pads and buttons, but they're aiming for an infinite target.) For another, the very nature of smartphones and tablets makes this idea awkward - what happens when you need to answer a quick email? All this for a couple of millimeters of raised plastic that will be barely better than tapping on glass.

1 3234784_orig 9822900_orig

Right: Photoshop is hard.

The Invisible Gamepad is intended to be left on the device at all times, which seems like recipe for frustration, because at least parts of it will be covering the virtual keyboard every time it appears. You could peel them on and off, but even with "63 Gamepad elements in each package," the dedicated gamers that this project is hoping to woo would fly through them in no time. Of course, to swap stickers on and off, you'll need to carry a sheet of translucent plastic with you at all times (until they run out), plus a microfiber cloth, or oil and dust will take them right off in your pocket.

There's also a more practical solution.

Can I play games with different control schemes?

The Invisible Gamepad is easy to stick on and peel off: you can simply swap out controls between games. Or you could apply different controls to each edge of the screen and rotate your device as necessary – it’s your choice!

Yeah, no.

The Invisible Gamepad works with all kinds of games, like shooters and platformers! And RPGs! Why do you need tactile controls for a genre dominated by static, turn-based combat? For the same reason you need a D-pad to play Angry Birds!


The Invisible Gamepad is the brainchild of Olivier Buigues and Morgan Mainou. Olivier would like you to know that he has a BA in economics, and studied at ESCP Europe, the world's first business school. He rocks some kind of tribal necklace underneath an unbuttoned business shirt. Morgan is an "adventurer and supply chain expert" who's very proud of opening a windsurfing school at the age of 18. He's got an MBA and a tie. It's wrong to pass judgment on people, so we'll let you do it for us: here are some overly-produced press shots of the Invisible Gamepad team from the project's homepage. You can also download their resumes, or even Skype them! You know, if you want.

5432977_orig 6015888_orig 8708551_orig

Backers can pay one dollar for the privilege of supporting the Invisible Gamepad's $7,000 goal, $11 for a standard set of buttons and a cloth, or $16 to get them two months before everyone else. $6 and $12 "Early Bird Specials" are limited to 300 backers. I'm giving these guys a lot of grief, but I'll grant them one point in their favor: the monetary goal is reasonable, unlike quite a lot of Kickstarter projects out there.

You've got until August 25th to donate to the Invisible Gamepad.

Update: Commenter raindog469 reports that he bought an Invisible Gamepad sticker set from Amazon in September of last year, long before the promotion for this Kickstarter project started. It's definitely the same product from the same people, which seems to have disappeared from Amazon. He guesses that the Kickstarter campaign is a slightly shady way of clearing out unsold stock, which seems to be as good a theory as any.


Update 2: I called Olivier Buigues via his press contact phone number to ask about the Amazon incongruities. He replied that his company had produced several initial batches of the Invisible Gamepad product, and sold them in small lots on Amazon to get initial customer feedback, which he said was overwhelmingly positive. Once the initial batches were completed and the final design was set, the leadup to the Kickstarter campaign began.

According to Mr. Buigues, the Kickstarter campaign is intended to secure orders for several thousand units to begin large-scale production with the company's manufacturing partners, as well as recoup some of the initial marketing costs for the product.

Source: Kickstarter - Invisible Gamepad: Precise & Convenient Mobile Gaming

Jeremiah Rice
Jeremiah is a US-based blogger who bought a Nexus One the day it came out and never looked back. In his spare time he watches Star Trek, cooks eggs, and completely fails to write novels.
  • Really

    da fuq?

  • Sean Thomas

    This seems like it would work? I don't see the problem you have with them. If you needed to answer a call or respond to a text message mid game it's not that annoying to type and maybe hit a tiny raised edge...Also it seemed like they are reusable? is that not the case? Even if they're not if you get like 60 for $10 I can see these in walmart and people buying them.

    • Mithra

      Presumably they stick on like screen protectors do, in which case they are "reusable" as long as you get no dirt, dust etc on them.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      This is a terrible solution to a nonexistent problem.

      • Sean Thomas

        okay. But like why make a story on it? Seems like a dick move.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          Because we felt compelled. It's not all sunshine and rainbows out there, and we don't just stick to covering the rainbows.

  • Jon Langevin

    The video spells his name as Olivier (note the 2nd "i"), but he pronounces his name as Oliver, which is it? SCAM!!

  • Primalxconvoy

    Aren't there already products like this out there?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I've seen a similar, much bigger solution, and I still think it's pointless. Or rather, nobody's going to want to deal with these after a couple of days, if that.

  • Alessandro

    I enjoy the smell of ass-beating articles in the morning..

  • raindog469

    How is this on Kickstarter now? I bought this very product, same name, logo and all, from Amazon last September. It's terrible. And along with the even more terrible Logitech product mentioned above, it cost me $13 including shipping, so they're actually more expensive through this Kickstarter "preorder" (which I suspect is actually a way to clear out unsold inventory of a failed product).

    Pics or it didn't happen: (Edit: Sorry, I had no idea it would make the picture that big.)

    • Jeremiah Rice

      Thanks for the info. I'm definitely adding that to the article.

    • TylerChappell

      I am sorry for your loss of $13.18.

      • raindog469

        And a loss is what it was. My original idea was to buy a bunch of these "make touch controls usable" products and write a big review of all of them. But they all sucked too badly to bother. (The suction cup joysticks that popped off within about 10 seconds were the worst.)

        On the bright side, it made me do the right thing and get a real controller for my tablet, plus USB/BT Joystick Center.

        • http://www.modminecraft.com/ Nick Coad

          I was going to make fun of you for actually buying these, but after reading this comment I realised you really took one for the team. We salute you!

  • Himmat Singh

    I played around with something like this (a friend was showing it on his phone), and I thought "meh". I'd much rather be using my actual thumbs than something like this.

  • Ricardo Steve

    Useless level: ludicrous.
    Seriously, Kickstarter funding should not be allowed for these types of so-called projects.

  • Alan Shearer

    I have more elegant solutions:

    Xperia play
    Nvidia shield
    PS3 controller
    Xbox 360 controller

    Scotch tape cut out in the shape of your on screen buttons
    Duct tape because you smart man!

  • Aleksey_US

    Perfect comment from one of the poor souls who backed this on Kickstarter ;)

    "Nice idea :) how does it react on top of a already placed protective shield?"

  • Blockd

    Fvck it.. Ima start a kickstarter project to help me overcome this constipation.
    Cmon people... please help me raise $100,000 so that I can gather the strength to push out this chocolate warrior!!
    Small sample will be mailed to all backers that pledge $100 or over.

    • grain

      only if you do it through c-section xD

  • mathewmakio

    That's an awesome idea! That is exactly what is wrong with mobile gaming and that is an amazing solution. How is that bad?

    • mathewmakio

      The advertising was somewhat funny, but it wasn't targeted properly. For someone lounging around away from home they should totally be pealing off a new invisible pad!

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    Nice following up on this one, @jeremiahrice:disqus.

  • TylerChappell

    These guys are total morons, even more moronic would be the people backing this. Oh, and their "product" is what is known as a scam; high profit margins for an utterly useless product, because we know that those sticker sheets cost mere pennies.

  • whiteinge

    I also bought these on Amazon a while back. I think I've tried out all of the touch-screen-based controller options (Fling, Thumbies, JoyStickers, etc) because I really enjoy twin-stick shooters where you can't afford to glance at the controls for even a split-second. (PewPew 2 is still king, btw. :-) I tried all these back in the Android early days before USB/Bluetooth controllers were common (back when the only option was a custom kernel with HID support in Cyanogenmod).

    Anything with suction cups isn't usable for real gaming because the suction cups slide around as you use it; especially if there's a hint of finger oil on the screen and especially with tense games. That's aside from the fact that you can't see a damn thing under the "device". These stickers are not magic and they have limited game applicability since you can't "feel around" for them without also registering a touch on the screen.

    I do have two positive things to say about these stickers: they're basically invisible and they take up no physical space. You can leave them on the screen without interfering with any regular phone use (calls, Swype, reading, sliding in/out of a pouch or case) for times when it's not feasable to carry an external controller around or hook it up. They stick to the screen *very well* and make a huge difference for any games with a virtual analog stick (again: that is compared to a bare touch screen *not* compared to a real controller).

  • Joshua P.

    why is everyone shitting on this. I like this idea.

  • Pieter

    This is why I love android police! Great article!

  • Philippe

    I've tried this product a while back when it was selling on amazon. It isn't revolutionary but it works as expected and I was happy with it.

    I don't see the point of ranting about the guys's bio, it's pretty standard for kickstarter.

  • Martin

    I have met these guys through common friends and they offered to test the product and so I did. Even though I'm not a heavy gamer it did do the job as advertised. I thought the idea and the way they developed the product was consistent.

    Nevertheless, what I don't get is why you pick on them, their education or the way they dress or the way they do the pitch on kickstarter. If you follow kickstarter you would now that that's the way kickstarter wants the projects to be advertised and kickstarter is meant to fund projects that people find interesting, with no more judgement than that, so, even if your opinion might be valuable for some, I don't think you're entitled to judge what's should be on kickstarter or not.

    Two pieces of advice: 1) be more respectful when you talk about people that has the guts to put their money to create / launch something whether you like it or not and; 2) If you write a review, stick to the product otherwhise, as in this case, you loose credibility by attacking people you even don't know.

    Sorry if this sounds harsh but I happened to meet these guys not long ago and thought it was a cool thing to do and the fact that they are backing their project with their own savings it's really inspiring.



  • Bargualaido

    After reading this and the comments I definitely think this can be perfect for me. My Android gaming is 99% emulators and with all of them you can configure the on-screen gamepad layout.
    That mean that I can apply stickers and they will always be in the perfect position without ever moving them - I will just adapt the layout to the stickers, not the opposite. Epic Win. Thanks :)

  • Banaus

    This thing is going to be perfect for the FUCKING EMULATORS dudez