Giving A Console Controller Mouse-Like Precision Aim

Controller vs keyboard and mouse is one of the never-ending battles in the world of gaming, with diehard proponents on both sides of the fence. [Tech Yesterday] has been working to create a controller that’s the best of both worlds. His latest Mouse Pro Controller V5 features an inverted mouse riding on ball bearings.

Mouse Pro Controller V1-3‘s main focus was to create the largest possible moving surface for an optical thumb mouse for precision aiming. However, [Tech Yesterday] found that one’s thumb doesn’t work well for traversing a large flat surface, but works better with a concave surface. On V4 he flipped the optical sensor around, embedding it in the controller, with a small circular “mouse pad” attached to his thumb. The concave surface was made from the diffuser of a large LED light bulb. It had slightly too much friction for [Tech Yesterday]’s liking, so he embedded an array of small ball bearings in the surface using magnets.

While this “thumb mouse” has excellent precision, it can be a bit slow when you need to make large movements, like when performing 360° no scopes for the clips. For these situations, [Tech Yesterday] embedded a thumb stick on the back of the controller to allow for fast sideways movements using his middle fingers.

[Tech Yesterday] is already working on V6, but feels close to the limit of his skills. If you are interested in working with him, be sure to get in touch! Modding controllers for fun and performance are great, but for gamers with prosthetic fingers it’s a requirement.

23 thoughts on “Giving A Console Controller Mouse-Like Precision Aim

  1. Very interesting, I’d love to try it, maybe it really will change my thoughts below.

    Seems backwards to have a thumb disk in that dish rather than a trackball arrangement to me. Trackballs have a few advantages – like you can flick them and if the friction is low enough/ the ball high enough inertia they just keep rolling – so going for those longer movements is easy.. And shouldn’t loose out in precision aim over that method either, or at least not by enough to make the hassle of that thumb disk worth it…

    The only challenge for a gamepad format is how big you can make the ball and still sink it into the controller enough to be comfortable to use – Though a larger ball gives a larger range of ‘precision aim’ before you have to take your thumb/finger off the surface it also will add mass that could make it a bit fatiguing to use, and you still need all the space for the ball inside. I don’t think it will be a big issue to accommodate, though would I think it forces the design towards you holding at least that side of the controller more palm up – as that seems the way to allow a larger ball and comfortable movements for the thumb (and you want a larger ball for the larger precision aim travel and so the curvature isn’t too extreme for the thumb to follow comfortably – either that or a pretty small ball were most inputs will be flick and brake with only a small amount of precision aim travel – which will probably work great too thinking about it (how I usually use my steam controller)).

    All that said I’m not sure it can really best the steam controller’s rather neat trackpads – best of all worlds, able to play joystick, trackball, trackpad, or button pads (the only big downside being the brain bending nature of having something that feels the same behaving in a completely different way, takes a while to get used to every time you change).

    To really keep this guy happy you probably need larger trackpad, but I’ve never felt the steam controller lacking in that sense personally. I do think it could use a little polish in a few areas, but on the whole the steam controller I think has achieved what this guy wants, shame its not made any more, but the trackpad are available from the manufacturer last time I looked, and in many ways that is all you need to make your own version. Note I’m not saying the steam controllers pad match the optical mouse for outright sensitivity/DPI – but because its so configurable and you can flick to do the bigger turns in trackball mode you can have the default sensitivity set down to something that meets your expectations for ‘precision’ and of course further turn it down with an aim mode, or gyro aids.

      1. I have played FPS (and pretty much every other genre now) with steam controller, trackball and the traditional mouse, doesn’t make much difference to me (and for almost all things a traditional mouse would now be my least wanted option, the other two trade places alot depending on the game) – You just have to learn how to use them, and in the case of the steam controller spend some time tuning how it behaves to really match what you want for that game.

        In the case of my preferred trackball, of the ones I own at least – a finger manipulated trackball I would say it is superior in basically every way to a normal mouse – way way quicker than a mouse for me now, as it never needs the lift and drag – you can flick for really rapid motion or walk multiple fingers over the surface for unlimited ‘precision’ aim type travel. As fingers and thumb are way more dexterous than the arm you end up needing with the traditional mouse I would also expect you to end up more precise with steam/trackball once you master the input method (if you can – maybe it just doesn’t suit everyone no matter the practice they put in, though personally I doubt that for any able bodied person, physical disabilities are too varied to say but I expect a trackball would be better for some of them too)…

        The one thing I will say is a cheap crappy trackball will be awful to use compared to a cheap crappy mouse which in use is going to be very comparable to the super expensive ‘pro-gaming’ mouse – you really need a good trackball to get the experience of what a trackball can be, the cheap ones don’t roll smooth enough, might well have a sloppy fit on the ball so it doesn’t always roll but judders and maybe even falls out easily – and that can get pretty expensive if you decide you want to try them all, two major styles – a thumb trackball (and those are very hard to find if you prefer your left hand – I’m quite happy using either hand myself, though probably Left hand dominant) and the finger driven, but also a wide range of ergonomic shape options in each too, so you might decide the idea is sound but this other take of the thumb ball/ button positions etc suits you better… Much more varied that the standard mouse.

        Just because the ‘pro’ tend to use tool x doesn’t mean it is actually universally better, in this case it just means they all grew up using one, its supremely familiar to them, and not a terrible input method, so will quickly be giving them good performance. Where really trying to get as good with something new might take them years of practice to ingrain that same instinctual feel for the control inputs – as they are starting from the very very beginning, rather than halfway to mastery anyway.. And as there have been a few cases of console and controller players getting to the top end of pro gamer against KB/Mouse players its clearly not impossible to be good with other input methods…

        1. > I would say

          no doubt, now go to aimlab and verify

          >Just because the ‘pro’ tend to use tool x doesn’t mean it is actually universally better

          thats exactly what it means, if there is a better method/device out there all the pros eventually switch or falter into irrelevance. Doesnt matter if its racing cars, swimming, baseball or video games.

          1. I have used all of them and been similarly competitive after some time getting used to the newer ones… But to me now my preferred trackball is faster, more precise and I do better with it than a normal mouse, and for the games I don’t like the Trackball as much the Steam controller is vastly preferred to KB and normal Mouse as again in those games its better…

            Just because the Pro’s use something does not at all mean its ‘the best’ no argument possible – Even if something is obviously always way better there is an inertia to the old method that takes time to overcome anyway, and if what you already have is a really damn good tool, you are practised with it, refined your setup to suit you over years… Its a great deal of work to start from scratch with something that MIGHT work out better for you – Which perfectly describes the relationship between a Steam Controller,Trackball and traditional mouse both a new learning curve for a tool that isn’t clearly, blow the old mouse out of the water, no-competition better, maybe they are somewhat better, I certainly find one or other of them to be so every time now, but its not a clear and certain advantage.

            Its only if some new method is massively, clearly massively, and trivially easy to implement/use better that you can expect all the pro’s to switch rapidly. So they aren’t likely to stick with a 60 hz monitor or a 10 year old graphics card, that’s clearly inferior, and trivial to switch (if you can afford it). For most games they are not likely to use many if any of the prettifying switches that lower performance either again trivial to see it doesn’t do them any good and hurts performance. But maybe they are now shifting to 2K or higher resolution, as more, sharper details at a good frame rate might be better thank sticking with the old 1080 standards…

            To take your case of racing cars where its 100% clear you are wrong look at the rake angle on F1 cars, most every team runs a high rake angle because during the Redbull dominance years it was a standout feature and part of what made them dominant under the rules at the time, and remains competitive now – so almost everyone moved in that direction and has stuck with it since. But some holdouts remained, and now the Merc’s have been dominating with a very different car setup aerowise…

            Neither design is ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ just different, and both can work very well – being the best isn’t just theoretical or technical limits but also often user feel – the whole system has to work for it to be better, and personally having spent time with all three inputs I would say normal mouse is inferior. I’d argue its inferior on some theory grounds too, but all that doesn’t make it so bad it can’t be used to good effect, or even be ‘the best’ for a certain player in a certain game.

          2. The very fact you refuse to verify your claims, even for yourself, should tell you everything about your own bias.

            Its one thing to prefer something, its entirely another to start deluding yourself into believing in its viability at higher skill levels.

            >And as there have been a few cases of console and controller players getting to the top end of pro gamer against KB/Mouse players its clearly not impossible to be good with other input methods…

            can you name them? even one? Obviously instances with aim assist dont count – Call of Duty: Warzone actually takes over both aiming and camera control when you are strafing, because FPS on a gamepad without autoaim would be unplayable.

          3. I have verified my claims, by using all the damn options and finding they all work really damn well. In my case I do better after practising with them so long on steam controller and trackball by a good margin. I make no claims as to if you can do so, but I can (and remember even if you don’t immediately do as well or better at stand still and shoot on a steam controller you do get proper analogue movement which can be a great trade-off to make in some games still).

            As for controller vs others I recall reading about a collection of Fortnight or was it Pubg players on console doing very well in tournaments. Not a game I really know much about, for all I know it does do aim assist for controllers – but if the game does that it is on the game not the player/input method, as long as it is legal in whatever ‘pro’ competition there is no reason to single it out as not counting… Sure it kinda feels like cheating, but its only cheating if its actually against the rules.

            Also I can say for a fact auto-aim on a steam controller is a bloody nightmare when it can’t be turned off and is definitely not at all required – one of the Halo titles in the MC collection I was plaything through with an ol friend was horrible with it, even more so because it wasn’t consistently on (so you couldn’t play into it. no consistency, and I swear they turned auto aim up alot compared to the original) -It seemed like if you were not using joystick move/buttons it turned auto aim off seeing the ‘trackball mouse’ mode of the steampad’s gamepad as a mouse, rest of the time it jumps back on and drags aim off to the wrong damn target… (maybe it is possible to disable it, but I couldn’t find out how at the time, and it drove me mad, so not gone back to any of the rest of MC collection, even though I recall the co-op story being fun and some of the multiplayer modes were great fun for a while).

          4. Dont you understand “I like X” is not equal to “I verified X to be quantifiably as good as Y”? A quick session in aimlab will destroy any illusions you have of trackball/trackpad viability for gaming applications. All input methods other than K/M are so bad games had to incorporate aimbots for handicapped players. This might even feel nice making you believe you are playing well, while in reality those (consolized) games shifted focus away from fine motor function skills aka Aiming to map awareness, meta gaming, pay to win, etc.

          5. I am telling you categorically without autoaim etc having practised with them I play better on one of Steam controller or Trackball than normal mouse every time… And you are saying its not the same as proof they are better, at least for me its exactly that, proof they are better!!! It is I am afraid you who is completely without data to backup your claims…

            I make no claims on if you can manage to get as good or better with either – that is on you, but there is nothing inherently wrong with a well configured Steam Controller or good quality trackball. You just have to spend enough time with them – helpful I expect if you also use them outside of games etc too.

            On the basic bio-mechanics of a trackball vs a mouse in many ways a trackball looks vastly superior – it uses your most sensitive and dexterous digit(s) not mostly your arm, a much less precise and sensitive part of the body (and neither mouse or trackball are high loads so the extra strength is irreverent), you don’t actually have to remain in contact with it at all times – the flick and active braking takes time to get used to but really pays massive advantages – no more running out of mouse mat, and you can flick and move much faster than than the normal mouse while having the same level of fine control – IE the sensitivity of the mouse limits how fast it can do big moves while still retaining any ability to do small ones, where a trackball can be set just right for the small moves and still cover the big ones easily, you don’t need an ‘aim’ sensitivity button to help tame it. There are good points to both mouse methods though – like depending on the trackball of choice scroll wheel and button accessibility – you might end up using your pinkie more for RMB/LMB clicks and many mice layouts allow you to have extra buttons under the thumb etc…

            The steam controller certainly has some downsides, the latency is a little high, getting it set up right for each type of game or really dialed in for that game is an art that takes time to manage, the trackpad are not as reliable in function as I would like (when your thumb is quite mangled/has paint/oil etc in the finger print and minor lacerations you can’t entirely clean out it doesn’t always register well). But in many ways its better than either, as you get all the benefits of the trackball and so many other analogue axis (which doesn’t matter to all games, but can be really beneficial – some folks really manage magic with the gyro mixed in as aim etc – but that for me is still too mind bending, it just doesn’t work for me yet, I don’t sit still enough holding a controller so its full of unintentional move when I try it, at least for now), more easily accessible buttons – while your hand is just resting on it you have extra buttons compared to a keyboard in quick and easy reach – and don’t have to waste most of the buttons you can access easily just for the basic movement etc – as your thumb is able to do all of that on its own…

          6. >I play better
            >at least for me its exactly that

            Yes, now download aimlab (its free) and see for yourself how you compare to even the most horrible k/m players. Thats the point I am making. Having a feeling from playing random games is not the same as hard numbers from a repeatable test in a controlled environment.
            All that nice sounding theory on why trackballs are great crumbles in practice. Even your first post had this:

            >All that said I’m not sure it can really best the steam controller’s rather neat trackpads

            while video clearly demonstrates Tech Yesterday running tests in a reproducible Test setting to verify his claims :o

          7. The highest aim lab grid shot score currently recorded on video that uses the steam controllers touch pad only is just above 40k this is less than tech yesterdays 50k.

            The issue is one of surface area. Tech Yesterdays half track ball dome thingy has way more.

            However… The highest gridshot score currently recorded with a steam controller period is just over 100k, utilizing the steam controllers gyro. this is double tech yesterdays score. Also, 100k is what mouse users aspire to in gridshot. Pretty much every score beyond that is cheesed by using way higher sensitivities than one would actually use in game thereby rendering the test irrelevant. Lastly, while visually impressive gridshot is NOT the task people should be running to improve their aim. It might be a nice warm up, but thats it. Other tasks are overall better.

            So where does this leave the steam controller, specifically gyro which other controllers do have? Well, they can perform on a similar level to mice. Its ultimately going to come down to individual preference. The argument the other poster is putting forth is not that non mice are superior to mice all the time, but on an individual level it can be superior. I definitely aim better using gyro than I do using a desktop mouse.

          8. Three further points spelled out as carefully as possible, as you seem to be completely missing the point…
            – gaming is vastly more than one tiny niche control input you can’t play a game (except maybe Civilisation) with just a ‘mouse’ of any sort (though even if you decide that is all of gaming other input methods still perform well)
            – FPS is not all of gaming, and not all ‘FPS’ favour a Keyboard either, some really want the more controllable movement of a gamepad, they may not be the ones you love, but they exist…
            – and comparing yourself to others is in no way useful – some folks have better hardware, so everything is smoother, some folks have spent 20 years playing nothing but KB and mouse game of whatever type 15 hours a day or something stupid, and some folks are just naturally more gifted with hand eye co-ordination, thinking speed etc – the only comparison of any use is your personal bests.

            And I can and do do better with the other input methods vs a standard mouse, way better than I ever did with them now, and while I’d never call myself a pro-gamer (I really don’t have the interest in playing that much of any one thing to really get that good) I’ve never been a slouch, and spent most of my childhood playing Kb/Mouse. The game results speak for themselves, you go on to win more often reliably, end up playing in higher ranked games etc that is far better proof than one fiddly test that is so artificial it becomes meaningless in game, and as a Linux gamer I’m not going to bother courting the potential hassle setting up a pointless, tedious looking ‘lab’ shooter (sure Proton is getting damn good, so maybe it would just work, but why bother finding out for something you really don’t care about)…

            While I can somewhat agree with Mennenth that larger area is good I would argue in game the smaller but flickable ‘trackball’ mode of a steam controller works out much better in a game situation – and the builder clearly agrees having had to fit an extra stick to compensate – which is fine, but I’d far rather keep those fingers on the grip button / for grip on the controller myself – instant access to two extra buttons on the steam controller is useful…

        2. Foldi-One:

          > While I can somewhat agree with Mennenth that larger area is good I would argue in game the smaller but flickable ‘trackball’ mode of a steam controller works out much better in a game situation – and the builder clearly agrees having had to fit an extra stick to compensate – which is fine, but I’d far rather keep those fingers on the grip button / for grip on the controller myself – instant access to two extra buttons on the steam controller is useful…

          Oh for sure. In no way was I suggesting the steam controller was inferior. I was just showing the numbers in a direct “raw aiming” comparison.

          Holistically, the Steam Controller smashes Tech Yesterdays thumb-half-ball-mouse project.

          People LOVE to hate on touch pads due to stigmas/memes, but having ergonomically placed touch pads that have haptic feedback AND are ridiculously programmable to fit just about any situation is absolutely genius.

          The way I personally use the combination of touch pad and gyro is I configure the touch pad to be more of a “fast turn” input. IE mostly restricted to x axis (though still has enough y axis control to get the job done when needed), and at a high sensitivity. My goal when configuring the sensitivity is to hit 270 degrees of x axis rotation per full swipe across the touch pad. Enough that I can hit 180’s consistently without having to do a full swipe, too much for precision work. The gyro then handles precision work, where I configure it to be a 1 degree of real world rotation equals 3 degrees of in game rotation. To me that “real world sensitivity” value of 3 strikes a good balance between speed and precision.

          FlickStick is pretty good as a fast turn input for non Steam Controller gamepads, but it does completely sacrifice y axis to get there AND cant do the following…

          I’ll often use the touch pad click as a modeshift for the touchpad itself to transform it from a mouse into a button pad, to effectively stuff several virtual buttons “under” the touchpad. Useful for things like weapon wheels, so you dont have to give up movement to change weapons and of course gyro has aiming covered during that moment too. Doing such tricks really enables you to be highly efficient with your inputs. This is also something Tech Yesterdays controller cant do.

          Again, I love that Tech Yesterday is at least experimenting in a space that has been pretty bereft of innovation for a couple of decades… but I mostly find his efforts quaint at best and depressing at worst given he often puts down other controllers that have actually innovated and can actually perform really well if people would just look past the stigmas/memes and learn a new skill…

          1. Exactly right, this experiment is interesting, and as I opened with I’d love to get my hands on it and find out just what it is really like. As maybe something about it just clicks mentally, so its easy to get it to really work well. But there is no doubt the steam controller is almost magic, and doesn’t need much to get even better – a few grip scaling options perhaps – so it fits though with giant hands more comfortably, extra pair of buttons on the underneath, scale up the trackpads some, and dump the thumb stick.

            Though I do still prefer a ‘normal’ trackball mouse and Keyboard for some games and personally find the normal trackball is great compared to a normal mouse – definitely took some time to get there though, I started using a trackball on my very congested project desk just because it doesn’t need a huge footprint, some months later I decided I needed a better one, as the low end ones work but that is about all that can be said for them, got it and was blown away by how nice it was to use so then gave gaming on it a serious go – so I was already pretty comfortable, had that muscle memory with how it works, very quickly wasn’t massively worse than the normal mouse, perhaps a year after first touching one to finding it really works better (though I expect it would be much quicker if you really played alot).

            You have a very different take on setup for the steam controller than I tend to go for – I like the trackpad to be good for precision aim so a swipe across it is probably 30, maybe 50 degree cone (I’ve never actually measured it like that, just set the sensitivity till it feels right and I can pop the pointer where I want it fast but with precision), and then because its playing at trackball give it a flick for the very faster movements – set friction to zero even and you just keep spinning (and in both x and y) till you actively brake and do the fine aim..

            I’ve tried a few other setups, but so many options so little time, and you really have to give yourself quite a while to decide if this might work for you, so not tried them all… So far every time I try playing with gyro I just end up in a mess, I can see where it will really lift performance, sometimes I just about start getting it to work, then don’t play the right type of game for long enough I forget how…

            But that really is the downside to a steam controller – setting it up is somewhat of an art form (though similar games are generally import setup and tweak if you need to), and you have to find the method you like/ train yourself to use the method you pick – which makes anything like aimlab scores from somebody else kinda pointless – unless they come with controller settings all it does is prove x score is possible somehow, and maybe not a way you’d like, it also doesn’t prove anything about what the best score could be (even with similar setup constraints) as the sample size of folks using that exact config is near 1 – and that one might be an unco-ordinated slowpoke or some lighting fast master way outperforming the terrible setup… I’ve never used trackpad click as a mode shift for itself, like the idea though…

            I think people love to hate on touchpad largely from their personal experience – because especially till pretty recently they were just a mostly functional but slimline alternative thrown into laptops, functional but never really got the effort put into them to be great to use… Think the first half way decent trackpad user experience was something like 2010 and it was on an damn Apple product, but was in its own right good enough I, a big Apple hater was tempted, and really good ones in anything less Apple took a while longer to arrive, from what I can tell something like the last 8 years…

    1. Pretty sure the original video for him trying to make one which was terrible compared to this one, was him literally trying to replicate the steam controller but make it better because he specifically had a good experience with the steam controller but felt it could be improved upon.

  2. Trackballs are for arcade golf games this controller looks well though out , awesome ingenuity , the only thing this needs is real testing to figure out where your weak spots are and then polishing those issues before a mass production run . I’d love one of these

  3. While I love the diy angle, gyro aiming is better and available on all controllers except xbox controllers. Think his 50k in gridshot is impressive? Try 100k, By a steam controller user.

    The steam controller also has a few tricks up its sleeve that the thumb mouse half track ball thing doesnt.

    Still, as a diy project it is nice to see someone challenge the 2 decade old stagnant standard.

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