Man spends 30 years helping disabled gamers

xbox_sip_puff

Using our hands to manipulate game controllers is something most of us take for granted. However for quadriplegics, whose arms and legs are completely paralyzed, gaming becomes a nearly impossible task. One man has spent the last 30 years of his life trying to help quadriplegics once again “pick up” the controller and enjoy a few rounds of their favorite video games.

Retired aerospace engineer [Ken Yankelevitz] has been using his skills to create game controllers that can be easily used by disabled gamers, offering them for sale at cost. Starting with Atari joysticks in 1981, he has been perfecting his craft over the years, creating some 800 mouth-operated game controllers. As the systems and their controllers became more complex, so did [Ken’s] designs. His new Xbox and Playstation controllers use all manner of components, including sip-puff tubes and lip-activated buttons in order to allow users to access every single controller function.

Even as he approaches his 70th birthday, he is busy making controllers, though at a slower pace than he has in the past. He has said that he will continue making them for as long as he can, but at some point he will have to close up shop. This has disabled gamers worried that they may no longer have someone to turn to for custom controllers, though we hope someone steps in to fill the gap whenever that day comes.

Be sure to check out his site to take a look at his designs, what he has done for the disabled community is amazing.

SCART hack automatically selects TV’s AV mode

We’re sure there’s still a lot of folks using their original Xbox either for gaming or as an XBMC device. If you ever owned one yourself you’ll remember that you can’t turn it on with a remote control. If you have to get up and push a button on the front of the black box, as least this hack will take care of tuning the television to the correct channel. That is, if you are using a SCART adapter to connect it to your TV.

[Karl-Henrik] figured out that mapping a voltage to pin 8 of a SCART port tells a TV that the port is active, and allows it to select the proper aspect ratio. Check out the Wikipedia SCART page to see that pushing 5-8V is the signal for a 16:9 aspect ratio, and 9.5-12V translates to 4:3. So he added an audio jack to the back of his Xbox and a matching one on the plastic case of the adapter. Now just tap into the wires on the power connector for the hard drive inside, connecting them to the newly installed jack. There’s a 12V and a 5V line, just choose the one based on the aspect ratio you prefer. He uses a jumper wire with the appropriate plugs on each end to make the connection. Now the TV will automatically tune to the correct AV input when the Xbox powers up.

Fan and vent holes prevent sweaty gaming hands

[Happy Dragon] grew tired of wiping moist palms on his pants during intense gaming sessions. To combat the issue he tried adding a fan to an Xbox 360 controller that he had sitting around. He pulled a small PC fan from a Nyko Airflow and glued it over a hole he cut into the battery compartment of the controller. This forces air into the body of the unit, which exits through holes he’s drilled in the wings. He added an external battery pack to power the controller since the original batteries were removed before the fan was glues in place. The fan itself isn’t powered from this external pack, but requires a USB connection that he attaches using the disconnect from a wired Xbox controller.

After some testing, [Happy Dragon] seems… happy… with the results. He tells us that his hands are not sweaty, and that he finds he’s not gripping the controller quite as tightly as he used to so as not to block the vent holes. We can see a couple of issues with this design, like the holes filling up with crud, or the fan blowing dust and dirt into the controller (we’re thinking about the analog sticks). But perhaps a future design could create dedicated ducts inside that keep the electronics isolated from the cooling. Or maybe the exhaust from portable console builds could be used in a similar way?

You’ll notice that there’s no direct link for this hack. [Happy Dragon] didn’t write a post about this, he just sent us a half-dozen images and his description of the project. Check out the rest of the pictures after the break.

[Read more...]

MIDI drum interface helps you step up your game

rb_drum_trigger

[Dan] likes Rock Band, but playing it makes him feel as useful as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking a drumming contest. He says that even using his friend’s ION kit leaves him searching out excuses as to why he’s not as good as he should be on the drums.

Eventually, he decided that he would settle things once and for all. The final excuse he came up with was that it is too difficult to press the drum pedal rapidly without getting tired, as the Rock Band gear does not properly simulate real drum equipment. Bass pedals on professional kits are weighted and balanced to allow the drummer to exert the least amount of work for the most return, resulting in a less tiring experience.

To give him a leg up while playing the game, he decided to rig a trigger to his Yamaha MIDI bass pedal, which is properly weighted. He consulted the Rock Band forums, and after looking at a couple of different circuit diagrams, he designed his own. He etched a PCB, mounted his SMD components, and was well on his way to becoming a drum legend.

He says that the pedal interface works quite well, and despite a couple of tiny soldering setbacks, he has yet to see any errant hits register in-game.

Be sure to check out the video below of his drum trigger undergoing some tests.

[Read more...]

Xbox 360 briefcase is ready to go wherever you do

portable_xbox

Hackaday forum member [azazelcrey] recently wrote in to share his portable Xbox 360 build. This is not his first attempt at constructing one of these, as he completed his first portable console a few years back. This time, he has taken what he learned from the first go round, making his newest creation a bit cleaner and more compact.

He sourced an LCD monitor with built-in speakers to use as the display, mounting it into a $20 metal-sided suitcase from Home Depot. He disassembled his Xbox and added it to the case, installing a couple extra fans to keep things cool. Some standard Xbox functions were externalized, allowing him to power on the console, load games, and synchronize controllers, all while keeping the briefcase shut.

This obviously isn’t something that you would carry on a train or bus for on-the-go gaming, but it’s a great way to travel with your Xbox as well as a handful of gear.  We imagine this rugged, fully-contained gaming center is quite useful for one-off Xbox LAN parties, and it seems like it would be a good way to get your game on if stuck overnight in a hotel.

Check out his web site if you are interested in seeing his first build or more pictures of this one.

Real-time wireframe video effect overlay with Kinect

linedance

[Francois] over at 1024 Architecture has been working on a project we think you’ll be likely to see in a professional music video before too long. Using his Kinect sensor, ha has been tracking skeletal movements, adding special effects to the resulting wire frame with Quartz Composer. While this idea isn’t new, the next part is. He takes the QC tweaked video stream and then projects it back over the performer using MadMapper to match the video to the body movements, recording the resultant display.

The project started out with a few hiccups, including a noticeable delay between the body tracking and the display. It caused the performer to have to move more slowly than he would like, so things had to be tweaked. [Francois] first tested the latency between his computer and the projector by displaying a timecode representation on the screen as well as via the projector. He found the projector to have a latency of 1 frame at 60 fps, which wasn’t too bad. This led him to believe the culprit was his Kinect, and he was right.  There was a 6 frame delay, so he locked the video output to 30 fps in hopes of cutting that delay in half.

The effect is slightly reminiscent of Tron, but with more distortion. We can’t wait to see more projects similar to this one in the future.

The resulting video embedded below is pretty cool in our opinion, but you can judge for yourself.

[Read more...]

Giving “sight” to the visually impaired with Kinect

NAVI

We have seen Kinect used in a variety of clever ways over the last few months, but some students at the [University of Konstanz] have taken Kinect hacking to a whole new level of usefulness. Rather than use it to control lightning or to kick around some boxes using Garry’s Mod, they are using it to develop Navigational Aids for the Visually Impaired, or NAVI for short.

A helmet-mounted Kinect sensor is placed on the subject’s head and connected to a laptop, which is stored in the user’s backpack. The Kinect is interfaced using custom software that utilizes depth information to generate a virtual map of the environment. The computer sends information to an Arduino board, which then relays those signals to one of three waist-belt mounted LilyPad Arduinos. The LilyPads control three motors, which vibrate in order to alert the user to obstacles. The group even added voice notifications via specialized markers, allowing them to prompt the user to the presence of doors and other specific items of note.

It really is a great use of the Kinect sensor, we can’t wait to see more projects like this in the future.

Stick around to see a quick video of NAVI in use.

[via Kinect-Hacks - thanks, Jared]

[Read more...]