Accessible Controller Plays Around With Modularity

Video games are a great way to have some fun or blow off a little steam when real life becomes laughable. But stock controllers and other inputs are hardly one size fits all. Even if you have no physical issues, they can be too big, too small, or just plain uncomfortable to hold.

[kefcom] wrote in to give us a heads up about a modular, adaptive system he designed for anyone who is unable to operate a PS3, PS4, or PC with a standard controller. The project was inspired by Microsoft’s adaptive XBOX controller and works pretty much the same way — broken-out buttons, joysticks, and other inputs all connect to a hub that unifies them into a controller the console or computer can communicate with. The major difference is that this project is open source and can be realized much more cheaply.

If you want to give this a try, [kefcom]’s project repo has step-by-step instructions for disassembling two types of wireless controllers and converting them into hubs for modular controls. He’s looking for help with design, documentation, and finding reliable suppliers for all the parts, so let him know if you can assist.

Some players need something more accessible than just broken-out buttons and full-size joysticks. Here’s an adaptive controller that uses ridged foam rollers to actuate buttons.

Stomp Switches Let You Skip Tracks Hands-Free

You’ve (probably) got four limbs, so why are you only using half of them when you’re working on the computer? Just because your toes don’t have the dexterity to type (again, probably) doesn’t mean your feet should get to just sit there doing nothing all day. In a recent project, [MacCraiger] shows you just how easy it can be to put some functionality under foot by building a pair of media control stomp switches.

Crimp pin connectors grant +50 professionalism.

If the devices pictured above look a lot like guitar effects, that’s because they share a lot of parts. [MacCraiger] used the same sort of switch and aluminum case that you might see on a pedal board, as he figured they’d be better suited to a lifetime of being stepped on than something he 3D printed.

Up on the desk, and this time in a printed case, is the Arduino Leonardo that they connect to. The wiring for this project is very straightforward, with the switches connected directly to the GPIO pins. From there, the Arduino firmware emulates a USB Human Interface Device and fires off the appropriate media control keystrokes to skip to the next track or pause playback depending on which switch has been engaged.

This hardware isn’t exactly breaking any new ground here, but we did like how [MacCraiger] used standard 3.5 mm audio cable and the associated jacks to connect everything up. It’s obviously on-theme for what’s essentially a music project, but more importantly, gives the whole thing a very professional look. Definitely a tip to mentally file away for the future.

For the more accomplished toe-tapper, our very own [Kristina Panos] recently recently took us through the construction of her macro slinging footstool. Between these two examples of bespoke peripherals, you should have everything you need to create your own custom input devices. We suppose you could even make one that’s hand operated if you’re into that sort of thing.

Continue reading “Stomp Switches Let You Skip Tracks Hands-Free”

Use Your Earbud’s Media Controls On Your Laptop With This Useful Dongle

[David] sends in his very nicely designed “Thumpware Media Controller” that lets your mobile phone headphones control the media playback on your PC.

We realize that some PCs have support for the extra pins on cellphone earbuds, but at least some of us have experienced the frustration (however small) of habitually reaching up to touch the media controls on our earbuds only to hear the forlorn click of an inactive-button. This solves that, assuming you’re still holding on to those 3.5mm headphones, at least.

The media controls are intercepted by a PIC16 and a small board splits and interprets the signals into a male 3.5mm and a USB port. What really impressed us is the professional-looking design and enclosure. A lot of care was taken to plan out the wiring, assembly, and strain relief. Overall it’s a pleasure to look at.

All the files are available, so with a bit of soldering, hacking, and careful sanding someone could put together a professional looking dongle for their own set-up.

Serial Connection Over Audio: Arduino Can Listen To UART

We’ve all been there: after assessing a problem and thinking about a solution, we immediately rush to pursue the first that comes to mind, only to later find that there was a vastly simpler alternative. Thankfully, developing an obscure solution, though sometimes frustrating at the time, does tend to make a good Hackaday post. This time it was [David Wehr] and AudioSerial: a simple way of outputting raw serial data over the audio port of an Android phone. Though [David] could have easily used USB OTG for this project, many microcontrollers don’t have the USB-to-TTL capabilities of his Arduino – so this wasn’t entirely in vain.

At first, it seemed like a simple task: any respectable phone’s DAC should have a sample rate of at least 44.1kHz. [David] used Oboe, a high performance C++ library for Android audio apps, to create the required waveform. The 8-bit data chunks he sent can only make up 256 unique messages, so he pre-generated them. However, the DAC tried to be clever and do some interpolation with the signal – great for audio, not so much for digital waveforms. You can see the warped signal in blue compared to what it should be in orange. To fix this, an op-amp comparator was used to clean up the signal, as well as boosting it to the required voltage.

Prefer your Arduino connections wireless? Check out this smartphone-controlled periodic table of elements, or this wireless robotic hand.

Continue reading “Serial Connection Over Audio: Arduino Can Listen To UART”

Hackaday Prize Entry: Clunke Button Powers Accessibility

An AT button is a device that helps people with all kinds of physical disabilities to interact with their world. There isn’t much to them,  just a switch wired up to a 3.5mm mono plug or jack, but the switch is installed in a large button housing that’s easy to operate.

These buttons can be used with any appliance or toy that can be adapted for mono input. They’re a simple piece of technology that makes a world of difference, but for some reason, they cost around $65 each. Because of this, people make their own simple switches, but these aren’t usually sturdy or long-lasting. [Christopher] thinks they should cost way less than that and set out to make buttons for about $10 in materials. Aside from the printed files, all you really need to make a Clunke button is one Cherry MX in your favorite shade of blue, blue, or blue, and either a 3.5mm mono jack or plug, depending on preference.

[Christopher] and his team devised the Clunke Button in collaboration with the local United Cerebral Palsy chapter as part of their senior design project. When it came time to present the project, they wanted to find a way to be able to pass a Clunke button around the audience and have it do something when pressed. They made an interactive ticker by adding an ESP-01 and a battery. [Christopher] has since taken over the project and continues to improve the design as he progresses through the Prize finals. Code for the ticker is available on GitHub, and the button STL files are on Thingiverse.

Bringing Back The IPhone7 Headphone Jack

Plenty of people bemoaned Apple’s choice to drop the 1/8″ headphone jack from the iPhone 7. [Scotty Allen] wasn’t happy about it either, but he decided to do something about it: he designed a custom flex circuit and brought the jack back. If you don’t recognize [Scotty], he’s the same guy who built an iPhone 6 from parts obtained in Shenzhen markets. Those same markets were now used to design, and prototype an entirely new circuit.

The iPhone 7 features a barometric vent, which sits exactly where the headphone jack lived in the iPhone 6. The vent helps the barometric pressure sensor obtain an accurate reading while keeping the phone water proof. [Scotty] wasn’t worried about waterproofing, as he was cutting a hole through the case. The vent was out, replaced with a carefully modified headphone jack.

The next step was convincing the phone to play analog signals. For this, [Scotty] used parts from Apple’s own headphone adapter. The hard part was making all of this work and keeping the lightning port available. The key was a digital switch chip. Here’s how the circuit works:

When no headphone is plugged in, data is routed from the iPhone’s main board to the lightning port. When headphones are plugged in, the data lines are switched to the headphone adapter. Unfortunately, this means the phone can’t play music and charge at the same time — that is something for version 2.0.

The real journey in this video is watching [Scotty] work to fit all these parts inside an iPhone case. The design moved from a breadboard through several iterations of prototype printed circuit boards. The final product is built using a flexible PCB – the amber-colored Kapton and copper sandwiches that can be found in every mobile device these days.

Making everything fit wasn’t easy. Two iPhone screens perished in the process. But ultimately, [Scotty] was successful. He’s open sourced his design so the world can build and improve on it.

Want to read more about the iPhone 7 and headphone jacks? Check out this point and counterpoint.  we published on the topic.

Continue reading “Bringing Back The IPhone7 Headphone Jack”

Death To The 3.5mm Audio Jack, Long Live Wireless

There’s been a lot of fuss over Apple’s move to ditch the traditional audio jack. As for me, I hope I never have to plug in another headphone cable. This may come off as gleeful dancing on the gravesite of my enemy before the hole has even been dug; it kind of is. The jack has always been a pain point in my devices. Maybe I’ve just been unlucky. Money was tight growing up. I would save up for a nice set of headphones or an mp3 player only to have the jack go out. It was a clear betrayal and ever since I’ve regarded them with suspicion. Is this the best we could do?

I can’t think of a single good reason not to immediately start dumping the headphone jack. Sure it’s one of the few global standards. Sure it’s simple, but I’m willing to take bets that very few people will miss the era of the 3.5mm audio jack once it’s over. It’s a global episode of the sunk cost fallacy.

In the usual way hindsight is 20/20, the 3.5mm audio jack can be looked at as a workaround, a stop over until we didn’t need it.  It appears to be an historic kludge of hack upon hack until something better comes along. When was the last time it was common to hook an Ethernet cable into a laptop? Who would do this when we can get all the bandwidth we want reliably over a wireless connection. Plus, it’s not like most Ethernet cables even meet a spec well enough to meet the speeds they promise. How could anyone reasonably expect the infinitely more subjective and variable headphone and amplifier set to do better?

But rather than just idly trash it, I’d like to make a case against it and paint a possible painless and aurally better future.

Continue reading “Death To The 3.5mm Audio Jack, Long Live Wireless”