A Modular Thumbstick Extension For Gamers With Disabilities

Hackaday alum [Caleb Kraft] has been busy working on control modifications for gamers with disabilities. His latest release is a modular system of thumbstick extensions for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Since starting The Controller Project, one of [Caleb’s] goals has been to create a system to facilitate the use of analog thumbsticks. Now that he has a few controller mods under his belt, [Caleb] decided to attack the problem head on. Rather than print a custom adapter for each gamer, he’s created a set of 3D printed extensions which can be mixed and matched to produce the perfect controller mod.

The base fits perfectly over the Xbox thumbstick. The fit is tight enough to stand up to some serious gaming, but can be easily removed with no permanent change to the controller. Extensions stack on top of the base to build up a large easy to grasp stick. There are straight and angled extensions to accommodate specific disabilities. The stick can be capped off with a rounded tip or an easy to grip knob. The exertions are designed to fit together loosely for testing. Once the gamer finds a perfect stack of extensions, a bit of glue locks everything together.

The best part is that [Caleb] has released the files for the entire system. 3D printers are becoming common enough that nearly everyone has access to a printer, or knows someone who does.  Click past the break to see [Caleb] demonstrate the modular thumbstick extension system!

11 thoughts on “A Modular Thumbstick Extension For Gamers With Disabilities

      1. you can, just make sure that the clearance is larger than the inaccuracy of the printer. You probably need to do some tweaking to make it fit nicely; especially inner holes have a tendency to slightly shrink more than the rest of the material. Since Caleb is intending this to be printed by unknown printers, I can understand why he skipped it altogether.

  1. It is a charitable goal. His solution seems a bit geared towards mass production, even though he is proposing to print it on a fdm 3D printer. Why do there need to be different parts that are glued together? if you are custom making it wouldn’t just union()-ing and printing that part you need be smarter? The idea(l) of digital fabrication is that you can make a one off that is perfectly customised to the users need, not a set of confection that is cheap but fits badly.

    1. But you might have to print 10 different versions before you find something that fits well. I guess it’s handy to have it in parts and then when you find a design you like, you could model and print it as one solid piece I guess?

    2. Caleb isn’t just solving manufacturing here, he’s solving fitting. The idea is that you don’t know what you need until you try a few different options. What looks like an optimal solution might not be comfortable at all to the person using it. The modular setup allows people to mix and match until they find the perfect solution for their hands. – Still – once that perfect solution is found, there is no reason why they can’t use modeling software to merge the sections and print out one extension. This would allow them to pass the modular setup on to the next person.

      1. It also has the benefit that you don’t need a 3D modeller. You could just send off the set of files to a 3D print house and get it delivered. I think that is what Caleb was really going for here, taking away the technological barriers.

  2. I have made a joypedal. It is for two keyboards volumes. It would be possible to drive a car with your solo foot.
    Since wheelchairs for the severely handicapped seem to have fairly standard joysticks, it shows how handicapped I feel when trying to use one of those tiny nervous-thumb stubs. I had a cousin who was para and could not grip but he ran that standard joystick with ‘dexterity’. The thumb is the less talented of the five on hand, it’s for grip not dexterity. Ever hear the expression, All Thumbs? You don’t have to have disability to enjoy playing with a real JOYstick. Kraft,perhaps.
    I want to learn-experience the game, not the cheaply made snap together piece of thumb dumb dumbness.
    Although this a noble venture, it would be greater to make better controllers to begin with. They would just plug in. The kids would love it.

    1. I can’t easily understand what you’re trying to say. Are you saying that you want to bring back the basic old-school joystick? How would that possibly work with modern games?

      Big console makers are going to make controllers that are comfortable and usable for the masses. Unfortunately this means very little thought is given to disabled users. Realistically, with the huge variance in disabilities, I don’t know how you could possibly come up with a one-size-fits-all controller.

      That’s why this modular design is great. People can experiment with various different options to find something that works for them. It might not be the BEST solution, but for many it will be better than the expensive ‘accessible controllers’ on the market.

      1. How would the “old fashioned” joystick work with modern games? The same way they work with complicated software like flight sims and mecha fighting games. Lots of additional buttons and switches.

        Some have been made with various adjustments to fit different sized hands and left or right hands. Notable among them is the Saitek Cyborg line with an adjustable/flippable hand rest, a 2-axis tilt adjustable top with all the thumb buttons and an index finger trigger that’s adjustable for reach. They either have a throttle lever at the center rear of the base or have a shaft through the base with a lever that can be mounted on either side.

        With all the movable and adjustable components, some of those joysticks should lend themselves to having custom parts made to adapt to hands that are missing fingers and/or cannot fully close to grip the stick.

        Many game control manufacturers have made HOTAS systems with a button encrusted throttle lever to compliment their joysticks, mostly intended for flight sims and AFAIK 100% of them are made for the stick to be used with the right hand and the throttle for the left hand.

        The number of buttons and switches available on some PC gaming controls puts any console controller (aside from the Atari 5200, Atari Jaguar, Colecovision and Intellivision) to shame.

        Odd how in the 1980’s some companies went button crazy on game controllers, then post 1983 there was a reversion to simpleness with only two “action” buttons and a direction pad. ‘Course we know why Nintendo used the D-pad on the NES and had gamepads – to avoid people thinking of the earlier game condoles that almost all had joysticks.

        One old controller that could bear revisiting is the one used on the Fairchild Channel F. Its control knob worked as a normal 8-way stick plus it could be twisted, pulled up and pushed down. Such a fancy control for the game capability of the era that really couldn’t take advantage of the sophistication.

        Want to get really slick for a controller? In Robert L. Forward’s 1996 novel “Saturn Rukh” the ship has a levitating ball for a controller. Grasping the ball then moving and twisting it maneuvers the ship. What is there today that resembles that? The Om One floating speaker.

        Add some buttons and a solid state gyro and accelerometer and there’s your universal controller. Adjust diameter as needed for hand size and grip capability. If required, add an armrest for support, deeply cupped if the person can’t keep their arm on a flat surface.

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