Hacking quiz game buttons to add a central controller

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The four colored buttons seen above are a product made by Learning Resources. They flash and make noise when pressed and are meant for quiz-show style games in the classroom. The problem is that they don’t use a central controller, so it’s up to the person running the game to judge who rang in first. [Kenny] fixed that issue by building his own controller which is housed in that black project box.

He went with an Arduino Uno board. It fits in the project box and has no problem monitoring all of the buttons and triggering their sound and lights when necessary. There are two telephone jacks (RJ11 connectors) on either side of the controller. He also cracked open each button, cutting some traces on the PCB in order to patch the signals into connectors he added to the housing.

The video after the break shows the system in action, In addition to illuminating the first button to ring in there are LEDs on the box that indicate who was 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in line.

If you don’t want to purchase buttons try making your own with some cheap plastic bowls.

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No nonsense guide for patching into a gaming controller

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Here a straight-forward guide for tapping into the buttons on most gaming controllers. Why do something like this? Well there’s always the goal of conquering Mario through machine learning. But we hope this will further motivate hackers to donate their time and expertise developing specialized controllers for the disabled.

In this example a generic NES knock-off controller gets a breakout header for all of the controls. Upon close inspection of the PCB inside it’s clear that the buttons simply short out a trace to ground. By soldering a jumper between the active trace for each button and a female header the controller can still be used as normal, or can have button presses injected by a microcontroller.

The Arduino seen above simulates button presses by driving a pin low. From here you can develop larger buttons, foot pedals, or maybe even some software commands based on head movement or another adaptive technology.

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An XBMC controller built for Grandma

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Is your grandmother cool enough to use XBMC? Maybe it’s a testament to the functionality of the wildly popular home entertainment suite rather than the hipness of your elders. But indeed, [Brian's] grandmother is an XBMC user who needed a controller with larger buttons to accommodate her. This is what he built. He sent us a set of photos and a description of the build, both of which you can see below. He was inspired to get in touch after reading about the custom controller which [Caleb] has been working on for [Thomas].

[Brian] didn’t get bogged down with electronics. He went with the simple, cheap, and popular solution of gutting a wireless keyboard. After tracing out the keys he needed he got rid of everything except the PCB. A wiring harness was crafted by soldering jumper wires to the PCB traces and terminating them with crimping slide connectors. The arcade buttons he used have terminals for the connectors which will make it simple to mate the electronics with the mechanics.

The enclosure is a little wooden hobby box. It originally had a lid with a mirror. [Brian] broke open the lid’s frame to replace it with a thin piece of plywood which hosts the buttons. Inside you’ll find a battery power source. These keyboards last a long time on one set of batteries so he just needs to remember to preemptively replace them from time to time. The finishing touch was to add decals so that granny can figure out what each button does.

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Life sized Katamari Damacy ball controls game but isn’t sticky

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If you haven’t ever heard of Katamari Damacy we highly recommend you unite a copy of the game with that PlayStation 2 console that’s been collecting dust and then kiss the rest of your summer goodbye. The quirky game, driven by remarkably catchy background music (Na Naaaaah na na…), revolves around a ball that attracts objects of every kind to it. As you accumulate more stuff the ball goes from the size of a mouse to that of a house and then some. Perhaps the biggest appeal of the game is playing it with groups of people and that’s where this hack hits the mark. It brings the game outdoors to a festival in London with video projected on a wall and this life-sized ball as the controller.

The project uses the same electronics laid out by the original work coming out of NYC Resistor back in 2009. That project originally wanted to use a 36″ yoga ball but they couldn’t quite hit the mark. This attempt did make it happen. The ball was decorated in the style of the game (also note the presenters are in costume). Guts from an optical mouse detect the motion. This is processed by an Arduino board which then uses a digital potentiometer to mimic the joystick movements on a PS2 controller.

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Build a waterproof music controller on the cheap

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[Aaron] wrote in to show off the waterproof music controller (translated) he just finished building. He uses it in the shower — which makes us wonder how long he’s spending in there. We could also see it being useful by the pool, on the beach, or anywhere else that you need a cheap and easy control system.

His computer plays tunes while he’s getting ready for the day. This means he was able to use an inexpensive wireless keyboard for control. The donor keyboard has dedicated music control keys which he carefully traced to the PCB before removing the flexible sheets that detect key presses. Next he found a water tight food container and sized his protoboard to fit. You can see his button layout above. Holes were cut in the lid of the container, with a plastic membrane glued on the underside. This will keep the water out while still allowing him to actuate the momentary push switches.

Most mobile devices will work with wireless keyboards. If your car is nearby just hook your phone to the stereo and control it with this rather than building a dedicated beach stereo system.

One game controller connects to many consoles

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[Dave Nunez] wanted arcade quality controls when gaming at home. The problem was he couldn’t decide on just one console to target with his build, so he targeted them all. What you see above is a single controller that connects to many different gaming rigs.

He took a simple-is-best approach, keeping the main goal of high-quality inputs at the forefront. To start, he built the face plate out of thick MDF to ensure it wouldn’t flex or bounce as he mashed the buttons. To keep the electronics as simple as possible he soldered connections to actual controller PCBs (well, reproductions of controllers), breaking each out to a separate DB9 connector on the back of the case. These connectors interface with one of the three adapter cables seen to the right. This lets the controller work with NES, SNES, and an Atari 2600 system.

To pull the enclosure together [Dave] designed the rounded corner pieces and cut them out with a CNC mill. These connect with flat MDF to make up the sides. To give it that professional look he filled the joints with Bondo and sanded them smooth before painting.

Karma Controller makes Reddit a game

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[Will] likes Reddit so much he built this dedicated controller that lets him play the social website like a video game.

He calls it he Karma Controller. In this case, ‘Karma’ refers to ability to accumulate a large number of net up-votes on a Reddit post. The device features seven buttons which are all it takes to up and down vote, navigate up and down on the Reddit listings, toggle images, as well as open and close new tabs for the comments section. We’re wondering if it allows you to follow a link to the post source too?

One of the reasons that we’re featuring this is that it’s only [Will's] second electronics project. If you’re still reluctant to get your hands dirty we hope this acts as inspiration. He started by building the first version on a hunk of protoboard. The Digispark microcontroller seen at the top reads from his button network and communicates with the computer via USB. Once the design was proven he had some help etching this circuit board which is version 2. He shows it off in the clip after the jump.

If you just want some buttons for voting you should take a look at this project which includes a 3D printed enclosure and button covers.

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