Using The Wii U Controller With Everything

It’s been just a bit over a year since the Wii U was released along with the extremely impressive Wii U controller. With a D-pad, analog sticks, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, camera and 6.2 inch touchscreen, this controller is ripe for a million and one projects ranging from FPV quadcopters and robots to things we can’t even think of yet. At this year’s Chaos Communication Congress, [booto], [delroth], and [shuffle2] demonstrated how they cracked open the Wii U controller’s encryption allowing for Wii U controller ‘emulation’ and giving us full documentation on how the whole thing works.

The guys started on their reverse engineering journey by dumping all the flash chips found on the controller’s board. In those binary blobs, they found Nintendo used a truly ingenious way of obfuscating the WiFi keys used to connect the controller to the Wii: rotate left by three. To be fair to Nintendo engineers, it was secure until someone figured it out.

Connecting the controller to a PC over WiFi is only half the battle, though. Initial information from the Wii U launch suggested Nintendo used Miracast for all the I/O between the controller and the console. This isn’t the case; instead the video, audio, camera, and button input are non-standard but very simple protocols. The hardest to break into was the video display for the touchscreen, but the guys discovered it’s pretty much H.264. After getting around some Nintendo weirdness, it’s possible to display video on the controller.

The guys have put together a small, extremely alpha library that comes with all the demos, documentation, and reverse engineering information. There’s a large wish list of what this library should include, but now that the information is public, it might be the time to pick up a Wii U.

Video of the talk below, here’s the presentation slides, and a demo of emulating a Wii U game pad on a PC.

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Tearing down the Wii U

With the release of the Wii U last weekend we knew it wouldn’t be long before we saw those glorious gut shots on the Internet. The folks at iFixit have torn down a Wii U, and the insides look somewhat promising for a potential hack to take control of the Wii U Game Pad.

The components in the Wii U console aren’t terribly surprising; a few wireless controllers, HDMI adapters, Flash memory chips, and the IBM Power CPU make up most of the interesting components. The insides of the GamePad, though, look pretty interesting. It appears the Wii U GamePad is powered by an ARM Cortex microcontroller built by STMicroelectronics, but the part numbers for the major ICs on the GamePad board are impervious to Googling.

Of course there’s still the question of how video is transmitted wirelessly from the Wii U console to the GamePad. iFixit found a Broadcom BCM4319XKUBG Wireless module that operates on normal WiFi frequencies. This module has been used in a few other pieces of video gear, most notably the Boxee Box, so there is some possibility of intercepting the video signal transmitted to the GamePad and figuring out the protocol.

The long and short of iFixit’s teardown, at least from the hacker perspective, is that all the interesting parts use hardware similar to what you’d find on any other eminently hackable device. Here’s to hoping we get an open Wii U GamePad before the year is out.

Launch day Wii U homebrew is very encouraging

With the launch of the Wii U yesterday, we were wondering exactly how long it would take for this new console to be broken wide open allowing for the execution of homebrew code. Technically, it only took a day, as [wraggster] shows us, but the results aren’t what you would expect. Right now, he’s using methods meant for the classic Wii to open his system up; probably not the best way to open up the Wii U, but a start nonetheless.

This hack revolves around the Super Smash Bros. Brawl exploit that allows for the execution of unsigned code. It’s called Smash Stack and is one of the more popular ways of getting homebrew code running on the old, last-gen Wii.

Of course [wraggster]‘s hack is dependent on the fact the classic Wii has been open for homebrew development for years now, and only works because of the Wii U’s ability to play classic Wii games. This probably isn’t the direction Wii U hackers want to go into, but it does provide a way for anyone to get into the Wii U system without using any new tricks.

Wii U to be released this weekend, Wii U GamePad to be torn apart on workbenches across the land

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, Nintendo will be releasing their next-gen console this weekend. It’s called the Wii U, and one of the most interesting features is the Wii U GamePad – the first controller to feature a full-color video screen right between the analog sticks.

Needless to say, we’re not terribly interested in the Wii U. The GamePad, though, looks perfect for robot controllers, FPV aerial vehicles, and a whole slew of projects that require some remote control.

The hardware for the GamePad is fairly impressive; apart from D pads and analog sticks, the new Wii Controller features a front-facing camera, gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, 6.2 inch 854×480 touchscreen display, and an extension port housing an I2C bus for all your old Wii peripherals.

Other than a stock feature list, we have no idea how the Wii U will be able to transmit video to the GamePad. It might be WiFi, allowing you to connect all your projects to a wireless network and control them without a whole lot of hardware.

We’ll keep you posted on the developments of hacking the Wii U GamePad. Hopefully we’ll all have an awesome remote control by next year.

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