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.

Hackaday Links: March 20, 2011

SNES Arcade Cabinet

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[Daniel] let us know that he finished up a SNES arcade cabinet he has been working on for awhile. It looks so good, he says that his wife has even agreed to let him keep it in the house!

DIY Overhead projector beamer

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[Liquider] sent us some information about a DIY beamer he built using an overhead projector and an old LCD panel. It looks like a great way to get a big-screen wall display set up in no time.

WordClock gets a makeover

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[Doug] wrote in to share with us some progress he has made on his WordClock. You might remember our coverage of this creative timepiece a little while back. This time around, he has built a new control board, and is using vinyl stencils for a much cleaner look.

Interactive water fountain

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[Gerry Chu] is well known for his water-based imagery and projects. His most recent project is a water fountain that interacts with passers by. There are no real build details as of yet, but we hope to see some soon.

Sixty Symbols explains why glass is transparent

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Do you think you know why glass is transparent, but a brick is not? If you looked it up via Google, you are likely mistaken. A professor from the University of Nottingham explains why the Internet is so, so wrong about this, as well as how energy gap determines if photons of light can make it through a piece of glass. [via i09]

Simple fixes breathe new life into aging game consoles

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While the Sega Dreamcast has long been out of production, there is an avid fanbase that loves the console dearly. As with many CD/DVD-based consoles, the Dreamcast can sometimes run into issues reading discs, at which point all games are unplayable.

Instructables user [Andrew] got his hands on a pair of the consoles and found that one could not read CDs, while the other suffered from a fried controller interface board, the result of a controller wiring mix-up on his part. Determined to get the consoles up and running again, he disassembled them and got to work, sharing his fixes with us.

The CD drive fix is a pretty standard one. He first needed to locate the potentiometer that regulates the laser. Once he did, a slight counter-clockwise turn is all it required in order to increase the laser’s voltage. Once he did this, he popped in a game to see if it worked. No longer greeted with a disc read error when he powered on his Dreamcast, he reassembled the console and began work on the other one.

To fix his controller issues, [Andrew] had to remove the entire controller board from the console. He eventually located a resistor that had been damaged by his wiring mishap, and replaced it. The console was tested and seeing that the controllers worked again, he put everything back together.

While this pair of fixes is not incredibly complex, it’s nice to see people sharing their tips for bringing these consoles back to life.

Portable gaming for retro console lovers

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There have been a fair share of portable video game console conversions over the years, but few tug at our retro-loving heart strings more than this one. Modretro forum member [Mario] constructed a fantastic looking portable Atari 2600 using a Flashback 2 Atari console clone.

He hacked apart the Flashback board to fit inside a small plastic case, then added a 3.5″ LCD screen, as well as some donated controller bits from other portable game systems. A pair of rechargeable batteries were added along with a small amplifier and speaker for sound.

While the Flashback comes with 40 games built in, he really wanted to add a cartridge port, so with the little bit of space he had left in the case, he did just that. When everything was finished, he sprayed on a few coats of retro orange paint and called it a day. Really the only thing that’s missing is some nice fake wood veneer and maybe some shag carpet.

Continue reading to see his portable creation in action.

Continue reading “Portable gaming for retro console lovers”

Odroid: all the open, none of the contract

The Odroid derives its name from the combination of Open and Android. The hardware is aimed at the portable gaming market and runs Android. The specs are amazing, the device is open and begging you to develop for the platform.

The Samsung S5PC100 System-On-A-Chip provides the device with an ARM Cortex-A8 processor running at 833MHz. The usual suspects are all here, a capacitive touchscreen, accelerometer, SDHC slot, and WiFi. What you usually don’t expect to see is a serial debugger and 720p HD output. But the best part, we get all of this without a 2 year contract or the hardware being locked down as we’re used to with and Android based cell phone.

[Thanks Stillbourne via LinuxDevices]

Uzebox in an NES controller

[David Cranor] has managed to fit a fully working Uzebox system into an old NES controller. Uzebox, an open source gaming platform based on the ATmega 644 and an AD725 NTSC encoder, is one of a couple systems that are becoming more and more widespread and accessible. There are a number of ready-to-go Uzebox kits available, but for the more hands-on types, [David] has been very generous with his schematics and step by step instructions. These schematics can all be readily reshaped, and would easily fit into controllers with less fun applications and sentimental value.

Virtual pool, real-world interface

Sunday we saw robots playing pool and an augmented reality pool game. Today we’ll complete the pool trifecta: virtual pool using a real cue stick and ball in another vintage video from Hack a Day’s secret underground vault. The video is noteworthy for a couple of reasons:

First is the year it was made: 1990. There’s been much buzz lately over real-world gaming interfaces like the Nintendo Wii motion controller or Microsoft’s Project Natal. Here we’re seeing a much simpler but very effective physical interface nearly twenty years prior.

Second: the middle section of the video reveals the trick behind it all, and it turns out to be surprisingly simple. No complex sensors or computer vision algorithms; the ball’s speed and direction are calculated by an 8-bit processor and a clever arrangement of four infrared emitter/detector pairs.

The visuals may be dated, but the interface itself is ingenious and impressive even today, and the approach is easily within reach of the casual garage tinkerer. What could you make of this? Is it just a matter of time before we see a reader’s Mini-Golf Hero III game here?