Xbox 360 DVD changer is the ultimate in gaming laziness

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Let’s face it – gamers have a reputation for being pretty lazy. In the most recent episode of his web series, [Ben Heck] takes on the stereotypical gamer role and cranks the laziness factor to 11, lamenting the fact that he needs to get up off the couch to swap discs in his Xbox 360 console. Never allowing laziness get in the way of his hacking, he springs into action, hauling off to his shop in order to construct an Xbox DVD changer system.

He grabbed a pair of CD changers and popped them open to see how they operated. After choosing the best candidate based on its CD loading method, he got to work disassembling the changer. The old CD player and its guts were removed, which he replaced with DVD drive components ripped from his Xbox. Quite a bit of trimming and tweaking was required to swap out the components, but it seems that [Ben] got things working just fine.

With the mechanical portion of the project out of the way, he dug into the electronics. The CD changer had no way of knowing how to interface with the Xbox and vice versa, so [Ben] had to devise a way for the two devices to communicate. He used an Arduino Uno to control the systems, triggering the CD carousel only when the Xbox thought it had its drive slot opened.

While the system looks a bit unpolished, and the controller quite bulky, we love this thing!  No matter if you are lazy or not, jamming these two devices together is exactly what hacking is all about.

Play dress up with Kinect

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While we have seen Kinect-based virtual dressing rooms before, the team at Arbuzz is taking a slightly different approach (Translation) to the digital dress up game. Rather than using flat images of clothes superimposed on the subject’s body, their solution uses full 3D models of the clothing to achieve the desired effect. This method allows them to create a more true to life experience, where the clothing follows the subject around, flowing naturally with the user’s movements.

Like many other Kinect hacks, they use openNI and NITE to obtain skeletal data from the sensor. The application itself was written in C# with Microsoft’s XNA game development tools, and uses a special physics engine to render the simulated cloth in a realistic fashion

[Lukasz] says that the system is still in its infancy, and will require plenty of work before they are completely happy with the results. From where we’re sitting, the demo video embedded below is pretty neat, even if it is a bit rough around the edges. We were particularly pleased to see the Xbox’s native Kinect interface put to work in a DIY project, and we are quite interested to see how things look once they put the final touches on it.

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Man spends 30 years helping disabled gamers

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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.

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MIDI drum interface helps you step up your game

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[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

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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.

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