Open Source Lego Controller

A mechanical and manufacturing engineer by day, [Tyler Collins] taught himself electronics and firmware development in his spare time and created an open source Lego controller called Evlōno One. It is based on the STM32 and Arduino ecosystems, and compatible with a impressive variety of existing Lego controllers, sensors and actuators. [Tyler] encountered Lego Mindstorms while helping in an after-school program, and got to wondering whether he could make a more flexible controller. We’d have to say he succeeded, and it’s amazing how much he has packed into this 4 x 4 single-height brick format.

The Evlōno One is based on an ESP32 dual-core MCU, and has WiFi, Bluetooth, and an IR transmitter for wireless connectivity. It also boasts USB-C power delivery, three motor controllers, speakers, LEDs and a button. Dig through the Kickstarted page for more details on these interfaces and specifications. Both the firmware and the hardware will be published as open source on GitHub.

Although [Tyler] has the prototypes all running, he notes this is his first big production effort. FCC certification testing and production mold tooling are the two biggest items driving the scheduled Feb 2021 shipments. If computer driven Lego modeling is one of your hobbies, definitely check out [Tyler]’s project. And if you missed our [Daniel Pikora]’s FOSSCON 2018 presentation about the intersection (collision) of Legos and Open Source, our article must-read for you folks in the Adult Fan of Lego (AFOL) community.

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Cube64 Puts The Good Controllers On The GoldenEye Console

The Nintendo 64 was lauded for bringing quality 3D graphics and analog stick controls to the console realm, way back in 1996. Unfortunately, those analog sticks were never very good; if you’ve ever played four player Mario Kart 64, you know how it feels to be stuck with that controller. For a superior experience, consider building an adapter and upgrading to the GameCube controller instead.

Cube64 is a project that allows GameCube controllers to work with the original Nintendo 64 hardware. Using a PIC18F14K22 in its DIY version, or a PIC18F24Q10 in the SMD version, it’s the product of much work by [scanlime] and [darthcloud] to reverse engineer the N64 and GC controller protocols. The GameCube’s many buttons and sticks allow for easy mapping to the N64’s original button layout, and the hardware provides plenty of calibration options and maps to get things working exactly the way you like for the game you’re playing.

Given that original N64 controllers are getting hard to come by, a GameCube upgrade is a great way to go. They’ll likely be in production for years yet, thanks to the commercial influence of Super Smash Bros. Of course, the two consoles have been fine friends for years, as evidenced by this mashup console we featured back in the distant, peaceful past of 2013.

Patience Beats Rage-Quit In Shattered Xbox Controller Repair

There are negative-one hacks to this project. Someone lost at their game, lost their temper, then raged at their Xbox controller with some horsepower. The result is that [Taylor Burley] gets a free controller with a non-responsive joystick out of the deal, and since he had nothing to lose, he decided to heat up the iron and bring the controller back to life.

The majority of the project is told in pictures and through the narration in the video below. In removing the joystick, [Taylor] opts for the technique of doping the connections with fresh solder (we assume containing lead for easier melting) before reaching for the desoldering wick. The diagnosis stage is brief because when the joystick lifts away, the PCB falls apart into two separate pieces! The next step was to glue the two halves together with cyanoacrylate to get into the nooks and crannies, then epoxy to provide structure. Solder bridges were not going to jump that gap, so he used 30ga wire and attached it wherever he could scrape away some solder mask. Best of all, it worked when he reattached the joystick. Job well done.

Xbox controllers are not a scarce commodity, so people do not spend their idle hours fixing them, but not many people can claim experience. Maybe someday the stakes will be higher and he will have the courage to repair vintage electronics. We won’t rant on how things aren’t built to last, and how we don’t train people to fix things. Today, we want to focus on someone who used their time to repair and learn.

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Life Size Lancer Becomes Gears Of War Motion Controller

Gears of War is a franchise famous for its giant gun with a big chainsaw on the front. [Eric] laid his hands on a toy replica, and decided it had to become a usable motion controller for the game.

The build is straightforward, following the usual format for motion controller builds. Fitted with a gyroscope and accelerometer, it’s interfaced to the PC using a microcontroller. The toy has a trigger which is hooked up to the fire button in game. Additional buttons were added to the shell for movement and other actions such as reloading and finding cover. As a nice final touch, the large pull handle on the left of the weapon is used to activate the chain saw in-game.

While it’s unlikely to be competitive with a mouse or even gamepad in practice, it’s hard to argue against the fun of wielding a full-size, 10-pound weapon when playing Gears of War 5. [Eric] has also shared a basic controller hacking guide for those eager to get into similar builds themselves. We’ve featured [Eric]’s work before, too – with this epic Minecraft pickaxe build. Video after the break.

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Super Mario 64 As Experienced By Mario

Microsoft’s Kinect, a motion-sensing peripherial originally for the Xbox 360, is almost exactly a decade old now. And in that decade it has expanded from its limited existence tied to a console to a widely-used tool for effective and detailed motion sensing, without breaking the bank. While it’s seen use well outside of video games, it’s still being used to reimagine some classic games. In this project, Reddit user [SuperLouis64] has used it to control Mario with his own body.

While the build still involves some use of a hand controller, most of Mario’s movements are controlled by making analogous movements on a small trampoline, including the famed triple jump. The kinect is able to sense all of these movements and translate them into the game using software that [SuperLouis64] built as well. The trickiest movement seems to be Mario’s spin movement, which appears to have taken some practice to get right.

We appreciate the build quality on this one, and [SuperLouis64]’s excitement in playing the game with his creation. It truly looks like a blast to play, and he even mentions in the Reddit thread that he’s gotten a lot of productive excercise with his various VR and augumented reality games in the past few months. Of course if this is too much physical activity, you could always switch to using your car as the unique game controller instead.

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Control A Motor With A Touchpad

There are a surprising wealth of parts inside of old laptops that can be easily scavenged, but often these proprietary tidbits of electronics will need a substantial amount of work to make them useful again. Obviously things such as hard drives and memory can easily be used again, but it’s also possible to get things like screens or batteries to work with other devices with some effort. Now, there’s also a way to reuse the trackpad as well.

This build uses a PS/2 touchpad with a Synaptics chip in it, which integrates pretty smoothly with an Arduino after a few pins on the touchpad are soldered to. Most of the work is done on the touchpad’s built in chip, so once the Arduino receives the input from the touchpad it’s free to do virtually anything with it. In this case, [Kushagra] used it to operate a stepper motor in a few different implementations.

If you have this type of touchpad lying around, all of the code and schematics to make it useful again are available on the project page. An old laptop in the parts bin is sure to have a lot of uses even after you take the screen off, but don’t forget that your old beige PS/2 mouse from 1995 is sure to have some uses like this as well.

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Run Your Favorite 8-bit Games On An ESP32

Here at Hackaday HQ we’re no strangers to vintage game emulation. New versions of old consoles and arcade cabinets frequently make excellent fodder for clever hacks to cram as much functionality as possible into tiny modern microcontrollers. We’ve covered [rossumur]’s hacks before, but the ESP_8-bit is a milestone in comprehensive capability. This time, he’s topped himself.

There isn’t much the ESP 8-bit won’t do. It can emulate three popular consoles, complete with ROM selection menus (with menu bloops). Don’t worry about building a controller, just connect any old (HID compliant) Bluetooth Classic keyboard or WiiMote you have at hand. Or if that doesn’t do it, a selection of IR devices ranging from joysticks from the Atari Flashback 4 to Apple TV remotes are compatible. Connect analog audio and composite video and the device is ready to go.

The system provides this impressive capability with an absolute minimum of components. Often a schematic is too complex to fit into a short post, but we’ll reproduce this one here to give you a sense for what we’re talking about. Come back when you’ve refreshed your Art of Electronics and have a complete understanding of the hardware at work. We never cease to be amazed at the amount of capability available in modern “hobbyist” components. With such a short BOM this thing can be put together by anyone with an ESP-32-anything.

There’s one more hack worth noting; the clever way [rossumur] gets full color NTSC composite video from a very busy microcontroller. They note that NTSC can be finicky and requires an extremely stable high speed reference clock as a foundation. [rossumur] discovered that the ESP-32 includes a PLL designed for audio work (the “APLL”) which conveniently supports fractional components, allowing it to be trimmed to within an inch of the desired frequency. The full description is included in the GitHub page for the project and includes detailed background of various efforts to get color NTSC video (including the names of a couple hackers you might recognize from these pages).

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