Mobile gaming presents a challenge, especially if you want to play games that were designed for controller input: most smartphones and tablets don’t have built-in controllers, so games and emulators resort to putting virtual buttons on the screen. But those virtual buttons cover a portion of the screen, and so do your thumbs when you press them.

One solution is to make controllers that clip onto the sides of your mobile device. Compal’s Rover Play Gaming Laptop takes another approach. It’s a 2-in-1 tablet with a detachable keyboard and game controllers on the back of the tablet, where they don’t interfere with the screen.

The Taiwanese equipment designer and manufacturer recently won an iF Design Guide award for the concept, but it’s unclear if it will ever come to market: a PC company would have to contract with Compal to actually mass produce the design so it could be sold under a different name.

But here’s the basic idea: the Rover Play has a set of “FlexiRear Controllers” that sit flush with the back of the tablet when you’re not using them. But when you’re ready to start gaming, you can slide open the flexible controllers and get “an ergonomic gaming console” with a set of grips on the back that feature ultrasonic sensors and “touch areas” for input.

You can also use these extended controllers as a sort of stand to position the tablet on a table, lap, or other surface so that the screen tilts slightly forward. Or you can position it on a stand or use a keyboard cover for a more traditional laptop experience.

There’s no word on what kind of hardware’s inside the tablet, because it appears to be little more than a concept design at this point. But it stands out from current-gen gaming laptops due to its compact design, and from gaming handhelds thanks to its unusual approach to the where-do-you-put-the-controllers question.

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  1. The stand functionality seems to be completely different hardware from the gamepad functionality (including different seams/shapes)

    I guess this is one of those cases where you would definitely need AI. Without physical points for orientation (buttons and such), the device would need to learn how you move your hands to touch each supposed button/control

    1. Nah, people have been playing games on their phones with on screen buttons for more than a decade now. Oh, do you mean on the back? Well, yeah, that does need to be “taught”, but taking the average of a bunch of x and y coordinates then assigning a circular region around that point on a touch surface doesn’t require an NPU.

      1. Except there don’t seem to be any physical demarcations for buttons on the back and people’s gross carry wildly for to various factors like hand size, so yeah, it would need to be taught. Not necessarily with an npu, but a small one would make it so CPU/GPU resources are used for the actual game

  2. I think the standard for iF Design Guide awards is pretty low. I guess “function” isn’t really part of “design” here.

  3. Hm, I don’t think people really want to have their thumbs covering up parts of the screen. And it’s likely the touch controls overlay is only going to work on Windows.
    Smartphones get away with it more due to the greater aspect ratio and (allegedly) pocketable convenience.
    But at least you can use it like a regular tablet.
    However, given the magnetic kickstand and the size of the thing (looks like 13 inches), I think they really made a mistake by giving it a bog standard folio keyboard instead of combining them into an iPad Magic Keyboard style keyboard you could use on your lap.

  4. That’s a very complex design with lots of moving parts (I count 6 hinges), and it doesn’t even provide a complete controller, it just provides a few extra buttons on the back?