The first person shooter genre found its feet in the PC world, relying on the holy combination of the keyboard and mouse for input. Over time, consoles have refined their own version of the experience, and the gamepad has become familiar territory for many FPS fans. [Tech Yesterday] was a die hard controller player, but after trying out a mouse, didn’t want to go back. Instead, he built a truly impressive hybrid device.
The build begins with a standard Xbox 360 wired controller, somewhat of a defacto standard for PC gamepads. The left analog stick and triggers remain untouched, however the face buttons are all relocated using mechanical keyboard switches. The D-pad has been relocated to the left hand side with tactile switches, and the right analog stick removed entirely. In its place, a cut-down optical mouse is used on a flat 4″x4″ mousepad attached to the controller, strapped to the player’s thumb.
The resulting controller combines the benefit of analog stick movement and the precision aiming of a mouse. We’re amazed at how comfortable the controller looks to use, particularly in the improved second revision. While currently only used on PC, we can imagine such controllers shaking up the console FPS scene in a serious way.
There is a good chance you clicked on this article with a mouse, trackball, trackpad, or tapped with your finger. Our hands are how most of us interact with the digital world, but that isn’t an option for everyone, and [Shu Takahashi] wants to give them a new outlet to express themselves. Some folks who cannot use their hands will be able to use the Magpie MIDI, which acts as a keyboard, mouse, MIDI device, and eventually, a game controller. This universal Human Interface Device (HID) differs from a mouth-operated joystick because it has air pressure sensors instead of buttons. The sensors can recognize the difference between exhalation and inhalation, so the thirteen ports can be neutral, positive, or negative, which is like having twenty-six discrete buttons.
The harmonica mounts on an analog X-Y joystick to move a mouse pointer or manipulate MIDI sound like a whammy bar. [Shu] knows that a standard harmonica has ten ports, but he picked thirteen because all twenty-six letters are accessible by a puff or sip in keyboard mode. The inputs outnumber the Arduino Leonardo’s analog inputs, so there is a multiplexor to read all of them. There was not enough time to get an Arduino with enough native ports, like a Teensy, with HID support baked in. Most of the structure is 3D printed, so parts will be replaceable and maybe even customizable.
The Gables Engineering G-2789 audio selector panels aren’t good for much outside of the aircraft they were installed in, that is, until [MelkorsGreatestHits] replaced most of the internals with a Teensy 3.2. Now they are multi-functional USB input devices for…well, whatever it is you’d do with a bunch of toggle switches and momentary push buttons hanging off your computer.
With the Teensy going its best impression of a USB game controller, the host operating system has access to seven momentary buttons, twelve toggles, and one rotary axis for the volume knob.
Right now [MelkorsGreatestHits] says the code is set up so the computer sees a button press on each state change; in other words, the button assigned to the toggle switch will get “pressed” once when it goes up and again when it’s flicked back down. But of course that could be modified depending on what sort of software you wanted to interface the device with.
As we’ve seen with other pieces of vintage aircraft instrumentation, lighting on the G-2789 was provided by a series of incandescent bulbs that shine through the opaque front panel material. [MelkorsGreatestHits] replaced those lamps with white LEDs, but unfortunately the resulting light was a bit too harsh. As a quick fix, the LEDs received a few coats of yellow and orange paint until the light was more of an amber color. Using RGB LEDs would have been a nice touch, but you work with what you’ve got.
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 we’re still far away from returning to a pre-Corona everyday life, people seem to have accepted that toilet paper will neither magically cease to exist, nor become our new global currency. But back at the height of its madness, like most of us, [Jelle Vermandere] found himself in front of empty shelves, and the solution seemed obvious to him: creating a lifelike toilet paper chasing game in hopes to distract the competition.
Using Unity, [Jelle] created a game world of an empty supermarket, with the goal to chase after distribution tubes and collect toilet paper packs into a virtual cart. Inspired by the Wii Wheel, he imitated a shopping cart handle built from — as it appears — a sunshade pole that holds an Arduino and accelerometer in a 3D-printed case as game controller. For an even more realistic feel, he added a sound sensor to the controller, and competing carts to the game, which can be pushed out of the way by simply yelling loud enough. You can witness all of this delightful absurdity in his build video after the break.
But that’s not all. With the toilet paper situation sorted out, [Jelle] found himself in a different dilemma: a cloud foiled his plans of going for a bicycle ride. In the same manner, he ended up building a cycling racing game, once again with Unity and Arduino. From a 3D-scanned model of himself and his bicycle, to automatically generating tracks on the fly and teaching an AI to ride a bike, [Jelle] clearly doesn’t joke around while he’s joking around.
However, the best part about the game has to be the controller, which is his actual bicycle. Using a magnetic door sensor to detect the speed, and a potentiometer mounted with an obscure Lego construction to the handlebar, it’s at least on par with the shopping cart handle — but judge for yourself in another build video, also attached after the break. The only thing missing now is to level up the difficulty by powering the Arduino with the bicycle itself.
Assistive technology is extremely fertile ground for hackers to make a difference, because of the unique requirements of each user and the high costs of commercial solutions. [Nick] has been working on Earswitch, an innovative assistive tech switch that can be actuated using voluntary movement of the middle ear muscle.
Most people don’t know they can contract their middle ear muscle, technically called the tensor tympani, but will recognise it as a rumbling sound or muffling effect of your hearing when yawning or tightly closing eyes. Its function is actually to protect your hearing from loud sounds screaming or chewing. [Nick] ran a survey and found that 75% can consciously contract the tensor tympani and 17% of can do it in isolation from other movements. Using a cheap USB auroscope (an ear camera like the one [Jenny] reviewed in November), he was able to detect the movement using iSpy, an open source software package meant for video surveillance. The output from iSpy is used to control Grid3, a commercial assistive technology software package. [Nick] also envisions the technology being used as a control interface for consumer electronics via earphones.
With the proof of concept done, [Nick] is looking at ways to make the tech more practical to actually use, possibly with a CMOS camera module inside a standard noise canceling headphones. Simpler optical sensors like reflectance or time-of-flight are also options being investigated. If you have suggestions for or possible use case, drop by on the project page.
Assistive tech always makes for interesting hacks. We recently saw a robotic arm that helps people feed themselves, and the 2017 Hackaday Prize has an entire stage that was focused on assistive technology.
We’re going to go out on a limb here and say that the controller for Steel Battalion on the original Xbox is the most impressive video game peripheral ever made. Designed to make players feel like they were really in the cockpit of a “Vertical Tank”, the controller features dual control sticks, three pedals, a gear selector, and dozens of buttons, switches, and knobs. Unfortunately, outside of playing Steel Battalion and its sequel, there’s not a whole lot you can do with the monstrous control deck.
But now, nearly 20 years after the game released, [Oscar Sebio Cajaraville] has not only developed an open source driver that will allow you to use the infamous mech controller on a modern Windows machine, but he’s part of the team developing a new game that can actually be played with it. Though gamers who are imagining piloting a futuristic combat robot in glorious 4K might be somewhat disappointed to find that this time around, the Steel Battalion controller is being used to operate a piece of construction equipment.
In his blog post, [Oscar] focuses on what it took to develop a modern Windows driver for a decades old controller. It helps that the original Xbox used what was essentially just a rewiring of USB 1.0 for its controllers, so connecting it up didn’t require any special hardware. Unfortunately, while the controller used USB to communicate with the console, it was not USB-HID compliant.
As it turns out, Microsoft actually provides an open source example driver that’s specifically designed to adapt non-HID USB devices into a proper game controller the system will recognize. This gave [Oscar] a perfect starting point, but he still needed to explore the controller’s endpoints and decode the data it was sending over the wire. This involved creating a HID Report Descriptor for the controller, a neat trick to file away mentally if you’ve ever got to talk to an oddball USB device.
Earlier this year we saw an incredible simulator built around the Steel Battalion controller, were an external “coach” could watch you play and give you tips on surviving the virtual battlefield. But even that project still used the original game; hopefully an open source driver that will get this peripheral working on Microsoft’s latest OS will help spur the development of even more impressive hacks.