While Valve’s Steam Controller ultimately ended up being a commercial flop, most users agreed its use of touch-sensitive pads in place of traditional analog joysticks or digital directional buttons was at least a concept worth exploring. Those same touchpad aficionados will likely be very interested in this modification by [Matteo Pisani], which replaces the analog joystick on a Nintendo Switch Joy-Con with a capacitive touch sensor.
As [Matteo] explains in his detailed write-up, the initial inspiration for this project was to create a permanent solution to joystick fatigue and drifting issues. He reasoned that if he removed the physical joystick completely, there would be no way for it to fail in the future. We’re not sure how many people would have taken the concept this far, but you can’t argue with the logic.
The original joystick is a fairly straightforward device, comprised of two analog potentiometers and a digital button. It’s connected to the Joy-Con’s main PCB with a 0.5 mm pitch flexible cable, so the first step for [Matteo] was to spin up a breakout for the cable in KiCad to make the development process a bit easier.
The board design eventually evolved to hold an Arduino Pro Mini, a digital potentiometer, and a connector for the circular touchpad. The Arduino communicates with both devices over I2C, and translates the high resolution digital output of the touch controller into an analog signal within the expected ranges of the original joystick. [Matteo] says he still has to implement the stick’s digital push button, but thanks to an impressive 63 levels of pressure sensitivity on the pad, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Now that he knows the concept works, the next step for [Matteo] is to clean it up a bit. He’s already working on a much smaller PCB that should be able to fit inside the Joy-Con, and we’re very interested in seeing the final product.
We’ve seen several interesting Joy-Con hacks since the Switch hit the market, including a somewhat less intense joystick swap. Between the Joy-Con and the legendary Wii Remote, Nintendo certainly seems to have a knack for creating input devices that catch the imagination of gamers and tinkerers alike.