Posterior Posture Videogame Controller


Normally we see some crazy mad science projects coming from [Ben Krasnow’s] laboratory. This week [Ben] changes gears a bit and hacks his Xbox controller to interface with his bathroom scale and function as a posture controlled input device. You may want to take a moment for that to tumble around in your noggin before we trying to explain. What this means is you sit catawampus on a bathroom scale and when you lean forward your game character moves forward, lean back your character backs up and lean side to side for strafe left and right.

A modern digital bathroom scale has four pressure point transducers — one in each corner — which are read by the central controller and summed to generate the weight of the object setting on the scale. To use the scale as a controller input [Ben] removed the central scale controller and created two amplified Wheatstone bridge differential circuits, one for each diagonal axis between load cells. After adding an offset potentiometer to fix the resting point at 0.8 volts, the amplified differential voltage signals are fed directly into an Xbox controller’s thumb stick input for game control.

Additionally, to add rotation to his new game controller he hacked a an old ball type mouse and added a bit of rubber tubing that contacted and tracked the base of a  Lazy Susan platter. The scale sits on the Lazy Susan and allows for the partial rotation of your torso to controlled game rotation. However, [Ben] still needed a regular mouse interfaced with the game for full 360° rotation control.

There is more after the break, plus the build and demonstration video.

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Xbox 360 light right and RF module connected to Raspberry Pi


If you want to mess around with your Xbox 360 controllers on a computer Microsoft would be happy to sell you a USB dongle to do so. But [Tino] went a different route. The board that drives the Xbox 360′s status light ring also includes the RF module that wirelessly connects the controllers. He wired this up to his Raspberry Pi using the GPIO header.

The module connects via an internal cable and is treated much like a USB device by the Xbox motherboard. The problem is that it won’t actually handle the 5V rail found on a USB connector; it wants 3.3V. But this is no problem for the RPi’s pin header. Once a few connections have been made the lights are controlled via SPI I2C and [Tino] posted some example code up on Github to work with the RF module. He plans to post a follow-up that interfaces the module with a simple microcontroller rather than an RPi board. If you can’t wait for that we’re sure you can figure out the details you need by digging through his example code.

Brute force attack Xbox 360 parental controls


The Xbox 360 has the option of parental controls. It limits the rating of games which can be played on the system. [Oscar] didn’t really need to remove the lock-out. It was simply an interesting proof of concept for him. In the image above he’s holding up a Vinciduino board. It has an ATmega32u4 chip that can brute-force attack the Xbox 360 parental code (translated).

We’ve seen quite a few of these attacks lately. Like the recent iPad pin attack this uses the microcontroller to emulate a keyboard. As you can see in the video, [Oscar] first navigates the menu system to the unlock code screen, then plugs in his device.

The unlock screen calls for a four-digit numeric PIN. That’s a total of 10000 possible combinations. It looks pretty slow in the demo, but according to his calculations the worst case scenario would still break the code in less than seventeen hours. Apparently there’s no lock-out for the max number of wrong codes.

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The thinnest Xbox laptop yet


With every generation of consoles, there comes a time when the price of a new box is cheap enough, and used machines are plentiful enough, that console hackers pull out all the stops before the next generation arrives. For the Xbox 360, that time is now, and with no PS1-like hardware revision on the horizon, it looks like [jhax01]‘s custom Xbox 360 laptop might be the smallest Xbox casemod we’ll see for a very long time.

[jhax01] was inspired by the work of [Yung Jeezus] and [AllYourXboxNeeds]‘ YouTube channels and decided to craft his own custom enclosure for an Xbox 360 slim. The case was made out of aluminum plate cut with a simple angle grinder and bent on a cheap 18″ Harbor Freight brake. Despite these extremely simple tools, [jhax01] managed to fabricate a case that’s right up there with the masters of Xbox laptop craftsmanship.

The CD drive was ditched along with plans for a second hard drive. The display’s enclosure and hinge comes from an ASUS Zenbook, hence this project’s eponym, the ZenBox. The panel from the display was discarded and replaced with one that would work with the LVDS converter [jhax] found, giving the laptop a resolution of 1366×768.

It’s an amazing piece of craftsmanship, and an impressively thin gaming console to boot. Throw in a battery, and we’d be more than happy to carry this one around with us.

Microsoft IllumiRoom breaks your video game out of its television prison


We see a lot of video game tech coming out of the three console giants (Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo). With one look we can usually predict what is going to be a flop. Case and point is the Wii U whose sales have been less than extraordinary and Sony Move which is motion control directed as hardcore games who we believe are perfectly happy with the current evolution of their dual shock controllers. But this time around we think Microsoft has it nailed. They’re showing off technology they call IllumiRoom which uses a projector to bring your entire gaming room into the experience.

The image above is not doctored. This is a picture of IllumiRoom in action. A projector on the coffee table automatically calibrates to the room (using Kinect 3D data for mapping) in order to show realistic graphic rendering on the non-flat projection surfaces. In our mind, this comes straight out of Kinect hacking projects like the Hadouken projector. With this in place, the game designers are given free rein to come up with all kinds of different ways to use the feature. Stick with us after the break to see what they’ve developed.

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“Hacking the Xbox” Released for Free in Honor of [Aaron Swartz]

Hacking the Xbox Cover

[Bunnie], the hardware hacker who first hacked into the original Xbox while at MIT, is releasing his book on the subject for free. The book was originally released in 2003, and delves into both the technical and legal aspects of hacking into the console.

The book is being released along with an open letter from [Bunnie]. He discusses the issues he faced with MIT legal and copyright law when working on the project, and explains that the book is being released to honor [Aaron Swartz]. [Swartz] committed suicide in January following aggressive prosecution by the US government.

The book is a great read on practical applications of hardware hacking. It starts off with simple hacks: installing a blue LED, building a USB adapter for the device’s controller ports, and replacing the power supply. The rest of the book goes over how the security on the device was compromised, and the legal implications of pulling off the hack.

[Bunnie]‘s open letter is worth a read, it explains the legal bullying that hackers deal with from a first hand prospective. The book itself is a fantastic primer on hardware hacking, and with this release anyone who hasn’t read it should grab the free PDF.

[Ben Heck] builds his smallest 360 laptop ever

[Ben Heck] is no stranger to building Xbox 360 laptops. Over the years he’s built dozens, but for this week’s episode of The Ben Heck Show he’s throwing down the gauntlet and building the smallest Xbox laptop ever.

The latest and greatest Xbox laptop build is based around the newest and smallest  $199 4 Gig Xbox. A few compromises had to be made to turn this console into a laptop, though: The power that would have gone to a Kinect was repurposed to power the very thin 15.6″ LED LCD, while the port that would power a hard drive was used to drive a perfboard stereo amplifier. You can check out the official [Ben Heck] blog post here.

The final build is extremely compact and much smaller than [Ben Heck]‘s previous Xbox laptop builds. At just 2.125″ thick and 16 ” wide and 9 ” long, it’s quite possibly the smallest Xbox that’s possible to build. Without a new hardware revision from Microsoft (which seems unlikely at this point), this is probably the smallest an Xbox 360 laptop can be. We tip our hat to [Ben], and wish him luck in the next season of The Ben Heck Show.