Custom Controllers For Kerbal Space Program

kerbalKerbal Space Program is already a runaway indie video game hit, and if you ask some people, they’ll tell you it is the way to learn all about orbital dynamics, how spaceships actually fly, the challenges of getting to the mün. The controls in KSP are primarily keyboard and mouse, something that really breaks the immersion for a space flight simulator. We’ve seen a few before, but now custom controllers well suited for a Kerbal command pod can be made at home, with all the blinkey LEDs, gauges, and buttons you could want.

[Freshmeat] over on the KSP forums began his space adventures with a keyboard but found the fine control lacking. An old Logitech Dual Shock controller offered better control, but this gamepad doesn’t come with a throttle, and USB throttles for flight sims are expensive. He found a neat plugin for KSP made for interfacing an Arduino, and with a few modifications, turned his controller into a control panel, complete with sliders, pots, gauges, and all the other goodies a proper command pod should have.

[Freshmeat]‘s work is not the only custom Kerbal controller. There’s a whole thread of them, with implementations that would look great in everything from a modern spaceplane to kerbalkind’s first steps into the milky abyss of space. There’s even one over on the Hackaday projects site, ready to fly Bill, Bob, and Jeb to the mün or a fiery explosion. Either one works.

Thanks [drago] for the tip.

The 128 Button, 6 Axis, 17 Slider, 4 POV Hat Switch Joystick Controller

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[Paul Stoffregen], creator of the Teensy series of dev boards, previously implemented a six-axis joystick for Teensyduino, the Arduino library for the Teensy. He had originally tried 8 axes, but a few problems cropped up, deadlines approached, and he left it as is. A few recent projects gave him some insight into how to implement a joystick with more than six axes as a USB HID device, so he started looking at how to read an improbable amount of pots and buttons for a USB joystick.

So far, the biggest problem is figuring out what software can actually use an HID joystick with this many controls. The answer to that question is none. The Linux-based jstest-gtk is able to read 6+17 pots, the four hat switches, but only 64 of the 128 buttons. A user on the Teensy forums, [Pointy], has been working on his own joystick test app that works on Linux Windows, but testing the joystick on Windows is an exercise in futility for reasons no one can figure out.

As for why anyone would want a six-axis, 17-slider, 128-button joystick, think about this: with this much control, it would be relatively simple to build the MIDI controller to end all MIDI controllers, or a cockpit simulator for everything from a C172, 737, to a Kerbal interplanetary cruiser. That’s an impressive amount of control, and all from a $20 Teensy dev board.

Further testing of this Teensy joystick is desperately needed, so if you’re able to help out drop a note in the forum thread.

Hacking Helps Bring Educational Robot Projects in for a Few Dollars

suckerbot-tedx

Meet  [Dr. Thomas Tilley] and his robot Suckerbot which looks very much like a clear-plastic six-axis controller. His presentation at this year’s TEDxChiangMai is made of the stuff that makes us feel warm inside.

[Thomas] has been using joystick hacks to bring smiles to faces of kids in his part of Thailand. The video below covers some that he has done over the years. These include racing cockpits made out of PVC or bamboo which patch into a cheap joystick to control the action on a traditional gaming console. He’s also spun a different take on multiplayer Guitar Hero by splitting up the fret and strum actuators between several different kids.

But the main topic of his presentation is Lollybot, which is an Americanized version of its original moniker: Suckerbot. This was his entry into a 2012 contest which tasked hackers to build a robot that would cost under $10 to replicate in the classroom. That’s quite a challenge but he actually did it with enough to spare for a snack afterwards. Suckerbot is so named because he added a couple of candy suckers to the analog joysticks of a knock-off PlayStation controller. They act as inverted pendulums; when the robot runs into something the suckers shake which can be read by the computer controlling the robot. Food container lids wrapped with rubber act as wheels which are spun by the vibration motors from the joystick. And there’s even a set of line-following sensors built from photoresistors and some LEDs. His calculated cost? Just $8.96!

The hope is that robot projects stemming from this contest will help produce the next generation of hackers in Africa. If this stuff gets you excited you can take part. This year’s challenge deadline has been extended.

[Read more...]

Manual transmission for gamers

manual-transmission-for-gamers

If that stick shift just doesn’t feel right in your hand it’s time for a change. This hack puts a gaming joystick in the center console of your hoopty as a gear shifter.

[Ilias] used a joystick from about 1991 to replace the stock shifter. It jogs our memory when he mentions that this thing saw a lot of use playing X-wing vs. Tie Fighter. Boy did we burn up a ton of time playing that one too! He actually broke the stock part getting it off (find a shop manual for your car if you’re afraid of this). But once the grip was removed he was relieved to find the joystick fit perfectly. The two molded plastic halves of the joystick screw together. To join them with the shifting level he used epoxy putty.

The momentary push switch for that thumb button is still in there. But it doesn’t look like he hooked it up to anything. If we were to give this one a try we’d have to find some use for it. Got any suggestions? Let us know in the comments.

Atari Combo Controller has what you need for any cartridge

atari-combo-controller

Retro gaming enthusiasts take note: this joystick is what you need to play any Atari game on the original console. It plugs right into the original console hardware and removes the need to choose the joystick, paddle, or keypad controller separately. You just leave this puppy hooked up and move your hands to the set of controls used on each game.

[x2Jiggy] built the thing from scratch. The enclosure is a wooden box from the craft store. He holds it closed with a couple of magnetic latches like you might find on old fashioned kitchen cabinets. The buttons of the keypad are mounted on a chunk of protoboard but he did take the time to give it a coat of matching paint so that it doesn’t look out of place. Inside you’ll find some more protoboard and point-to-point soldering to complete the rest of the connections.

You can see a fast motion video of the build process after the break. This reminds us of the universal controller built for Project Unity.

[Read more...]

Drop-in pcb makes Nintendo Four Score a USB joystick

nintendo-four-score-usb-replacement

The Nintendo Four Score was a controller attachment for the original Nintendo Entertainment System which allowed you to use four controllers at one time. [Simon Inns] wanted to use some original NES controllers on his computer so he developed a drop-in replacement board that converts the device to USB.

As we’ve seen with other NES controller hacks, the hardware uses a simple parallel to serial shift register to deliver key-presses to the console. This means that reading four controllers at a time is no different than shifting in data to a microcontroller from the four different sources. The remaining portion of the problem is providing a USB connection that enumerates the device as a joystick. We’ve seen a bunch of USB projects from [Simon] so it’s no surprise that he was able to pull it off.

He went with the ATmega16U2 which has built-in support for USB. [Simon] wrote the code so that although there is only one USB cable, each of the four controller ports will appear as a separate USB joystick on the computer. To button up the project he carefully measured the original board and laid out his own version so that it fits the footprint of all the original components as well as the mounting brackets on the case. Top notch [Simon]!

Converting an IBM PCjr joystick to USB

pcjr-joystick-usb-conversion

Seeing this IBM joystick again really brings back memories. But it can be used on a modern system thanks to this USB conversion project.

This particular model had a connector which is foreign to us. It looks like a boxy USB-A plug, but has an eight-pin sockets which looks like it’s 0.1″ pitch. You could try to make your own male connector using a dual-row pin header, but [Gruso] just went ahead and lopped off the end of the cable. He managed to dig up the pin-out for the device and found that it could be wired up to a gameport — the connector being the only real difference. He gutted a USB gameport adapter, removing the DB15 connector and soldering directly to the board. The boxy old peripheral has just enough room to house that PCB.

If you’re looking for a few more details than this build album provides check out [Gruso's] comments in the Reddit thread.