RoboTouch adds physical game controls to the iPad

robotouch

[ProtoDojo] wanted to play a racing game on his iPad, but he was not a big fan of using the touch interface for this particular title. Instead, he put together a pretty neat little hack that allows him to play games on his iPad using an old NES controller.

He built a set of custom conductive arms which he mounted on three micro servos. The servos were attached to the iPad screen using small suction cups in the locations where it expects to receive button presses. They are also wired to an Arduino that interprets button presses from the attached NES controller. When the Arduino senses that the D-pad or buttons have been pressed, it triggers the servos, which in turn press the virtual buttons on the screen.

In the video below, you can see that after adjusting the servo positions, the setup seems to work pretty well. You might expect to see some sort of lag with a setup like this, but we didn’t notice any. The [ProtoDojo] web site is currently down due to heavy traffic, but you should be able to find some more build details there, once it becomes functional again.

Comments

  1. first says:

    Brilliant idea. Limited usefulness but still very well set out.

  2. Christian says:

    redneckish!

  3. jim says:

    They should make official controllers for these things — not many classic games work well with touchscreen.

  4. Elias says:

    Well not many games work at all with Apple hw anyway so why bother…

  5. Amos says:

    Wouldn’t it be easier to keep the “arms” against the screen and use semiconductor switches to “activate” them? Is that impossible/difficult due to the capacitive nature of the screen? To what are the other ends of the arms (electrically) connected?

  6. Christian says:

    wouldn’t it be aeasier to use a bluetooth bridge or – what I am working on – a bluetooth enabled NES-controller?

  7. Nitori says:

    Apple does need to make an official hid for BT game pads because very few action type games work well with touch control.

  8. echodelta says:

    HID, PC because Aliens and robots don’t want to be included with us. Don’t those i-things all have 3-way motion sensing? How about i-phone to i-pad control link.
    Give me a joy stick or wheel and pedals, or I might as well play on a watch (not much smaller than I-phone).
    Still a useful hack for many occasional button presses in certain apps.

  9. Nick says:

    Would it not be possible to program a game for the ipod/iphone/ipad platform which uses the device’s headphone mic capability as an input device?

    These devices all use a microphone integrated into the headphones for sound recording so it should be possible to use the mic port as a communications port for a signal like a game controller input.

  10. capn says:

    Why not use some sort of solid state capacitance attachment that is activated when a button is pressed? If you want to not “plug” anything into the ipad, this seems like the easiest solution; other than your hands that is.

  11. bware says:

    @Amos To trigger a capacitance touch screen you just need a conducting disc tied to ground. He could have wired the leads from the pads directly to the pad’s buttons.

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