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.

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Wall of video games

Consoles, Consoles On The Wall, Can Alexa Help Me Play Them All?

If you’ve got a collection of classic game consoles, finding the space to set them all up can be a challenge. But the bigger problem is figuring out how to hook them all up to a TV that, at best, might only have two or three inputs. [odelot] recently wrote in to tell us how he solved both problems with his voice-controlled wall of gaming history.

To mount the systems to the wall, [odelot] designed and printed angled brackets that attach to specially shaped pieces of 3 mm MDF. They do a pretty good job of holding the systems at a visually interesting angle while making themselves scarce, with only the notoriously slick-bottomed Wii needing some extra clips on the front to keep it from sliding off. He also printed up a series of blocks and pipes, no doubt a reference to Mario Bros., to hold the power and video cables for each system.

Prototype version of electronics on breadboardAs to connecting them all up to his TV, [odelot] picked up an eight-device Extron VGA switch that features a serial port for remote control. After getting all the systems adapted over to the appropriate video standard, he then wired an ESP8266 to the switch and wrote some code that ties it into Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.

By just saying the name of the system he wants to play, the microcontroller will flick the switch over to the appropriate input and turn on a ring of blue LEDs under the appropriate shelf to signify which console has been selected. There’s even an array of solid state relays that will eventually control the mains power going to each system, though [odelot] hasn’t fully implemented it yet. Currently the electronics for this project live on a fairly packed breadboard, but it looks like he’s in the early stages of designing a proper PCB to clean it all up.

Not content to simply control a commercial A/V switch? In the past we’ve seen truly dedicated console collectors design their own custom switches from the ground up, complete with a display to show the currently selected system’s logo.

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Giant Nintendo Switch Is Actually Playable

The Nintendo Switch has been a hugely successful console for the century-old former playing card manufacturer. At least part of that success has come from its portability, of which [Michael Pick] has probably lost a bit with his 65-pound giant Nintendo Switch built for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. (Video, embedded below.) What he’s lost in portability has been more than made up in coolness-factor, though, and we’re sure the kids will appreciate that they can still play the monster gaming machine.

From its plywood body to the 3D-printed buttons, the supersized build looks solid. Docked inside the left Joy-Con is the actual console powering its big brother. Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, is that tiny (well, normal-sized) Joy-Cons are also hidden inside. These are manipulated via servos for the buttons and a direct pass-through setup for the joysticks to control games on the Switch.

While the Joy-Cons are unmodified and completely removable, [Michael] does recognize this isn’t necessarily the ideal solution. But he was certain it was a hack he could make work in the time he had, so he went for it. He’s looked into the controller emulation possible with Teensys and would probably use that solution for any giant Switch projects in the future. Of course, with this build, players can still pair regular Joy-Cons and pro controllers for more practical gaming.

Most Nintendo mods we see attempt to make the console smaller, not larger, so this is an eye-catching change of pace. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see the colossal console in action after it was installed, only some stills of hospital staff wheeling it in the front doors. But we can imagine that the children’s smiles are at least as big as ours were when we saw it.

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Official Teardown Gives Unexpected Look Into PS5

With Sony and Microsoft still a month away from the public release of their next-generation game consoles, you’d expect technical details of their respective systems to still be under a veil of secrecy. But both companies look to be taking things a bit differently this generation, as it becomes increasingly clear that modern consumers are interested in what makes their devices tick. Today, Sony really threw down the gauntlet by beating the tech media to the punch and posting their own in-depth teardown on the new PlayStation 5.

Unsurprisingly, the video after the break is almost entirely in Japanese. But even if you don’t know the language, there’s plenty of interesting details to be had. For one thing, the heatsink and fan that cools the PS5’s AMD CPU and GPU are collectively so massive that they appear to take up most of the console’s internal volume.

In fact, the heatsink itself is so large that the motherboard is actually mounted to it instead of the other way around. So if you want to take out the board, you have to unbolt it from the heatsink and remove it first. In the process you’ll expose the unique liquid metal thermal compound that Sony apparently developed specifically for this application. Good luck to you if any dust gets in that expensive-looking goop.

It’s also interesting to note that, unlike the previous two generations of Sony consoles, the PS5 has no discrete hard drive. Instead, onboard flash with a custom controller is used to provide 825 GB of storage for software. Hopefully Sony has put the requisite amount of R&D into their wear leveling, as a shot flash chip will mean a whole new motherboard. That said, gamers with extensive collections will be happy to see there appears to be an expansion bay where you can install your own M.2 drive.

Between this and the recent PS4 assembly line tour, it’s refreshing to see a company like Sony be a bit more transparent. After years of adversarial treatment from the tech giants, we’d almost forgotten that the customer is supposed to be king. Continue reading “Official Teardown Gives Unexpected Look Into PS5”

Jerry Lawson biography

Jerry Lawson And The Fairchild Channel F; Father Of The Video Game Cartridge

The video game console is now a home entertainment hub that pulls in all forms of entertainment via an internet connection, but probably for most readers it was first experienced as an offline device that hooked up to the TV and for which new game software had to be bought as cartridges or for later models, discs. Stepping back through the history of gaming is an unbroken line to the 1970s, but which manufacturer had the first machine whose games could be purchased separately from the console? The answer is not that which first comes to mind, and the story behind its creation doesn’t contain the names you are familiar with today.

The Fairchild Channel F never managed to beat its rival, the Atari 2600, in the hearts of American youngsters so its creator Jerry Lawson isn’t a well-known figure mentioned in the same breath as Atari’s Nolan Bushnell or Apple’s two Steves, but without this now-forgotten console the history of gaming would have been considerably different.

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Gameslab: The Other FPGA Game Console Badge

Anyone who was at Supercon will no doubt remember the badges that dangled around everyone’s neck. Some were reasonable, while some were neck-straining monsters that added anything and everything to hack the badge into something cool. We saw everything from AI cameras to a fully autonomous vehicle being worn with pride.

Sadly, one that we missed was Gameslab, [Craig J. Bishop]’s FPGA-based portable game console. No, not that FPGA-based game console; in an example of great minds thinking alike, [Craig] had actually been toying with his own handheld console design for quite some time. And we have to say the results are stunning.

The FPGA at the heart of this is a Xilinx Zynq FPGA-ARM Cortex A9 combo SoC, normally a prohibitively expensive monster of a chip. When [Craig] found “refurbished” Zynq chips on eBay for less than 10% of the cost of new units, it was literally game-on for the build. The console required a six-layer PCB to support the big BGA chip and the hundreds of support components around it. There’s a 5″ TFT touchscreen with a video controller implemented in the FPGA, a stereo sound system, and all the buttons and thumbsticks you’d expect on a modern console.

For our money, the best part is the case, about which [Craig] has yet to share any details. But it looks like a machined aluminum plate with wide chamfers around each cutout that contrast nicely with the brushed surface. We’ll be looking forward to more details on that and on progress with Gameslab.

DIY 40FPS 16bpp Platformer On A Cortex M0+

Sure, you can play a bunch of retro games on a Raspberry Pi, but if you’re really hardcore, you build your own retro console and write your own games for it. [Nicola Wrachien]’s entry into this year’s Hackaday prize is his DIY Cortex M0+ game console and the platform game he wrote to test the hardware.

The board that [Nicola] is using is the uChip, a small DIP board based around a ATSAMD21 (the same chip that runs the Arduino Zero). That, along with a 160×128 TFT LCD screen, makes up the bulk of the hardware. A carrier board holds both of these as well as several buttons and an OpAmp.

The ATSAMD21 chip has decent hardware DMA that [Nicola] is using to get the frame rate needed. Since the DMA hardware and the CPU can work at the same time, while the DMA is handling one chunk of graphics, the CPU is working on the next chunk. Using this system, [Nicola] is able to get a better framerate than originally designed. Take a look at [Nicola]’s webpage for more details on the algorithm used.

In order to create a level in the platformer that [Nicola] made to show off the console, [Nicola] created a full blown level editor in Java. Using the editor, you can place the tiles and sprites and set their behaviours. The map can then be exported in an optimized format for loading on to the hardware and into the game.

A video showing off the game is after the break. There’s no shortage of great DIY consoles on the site — check out this impressive vector console, or if RetroPie is more your thing, take a look at this DIY Zelda-playing device.

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