Fixing Joy-Con Drift With Recycle Bin Parts

Have you seen this yet? YouTuber [VK’s Channel] claims to have a permanent fix for Joy-Con drift — the tendency for Nintendo Switch controllers to behave as though they’re being moved around when they’re not even being touched. Like everyone else, [VK’s Channel] tried all the usual suspects: compressed air, isopropyl alcohol, contact cleaner, and even WD-40. But these are only temporary fixes, and the drift always comes back. None of the other fixes so far are permanent, either, like shimming the flat cable that connects the stick to the mobo, adding graphite to the worn pads inside, or trying to fix a possible bad antenna connection.

While calibrating a drifting Joy-Con, [VK’s Channel] noticed that applying pressure near the Y and B buttons corrected the issue immediately, so they got the idea to add a 1mm thick piece of card stock inside. [VK’s Channel] believes the issue is that there is no fastener connecting the plastic part of the joystick to the metal part on the bottom. Over time, using the joystick causes the bottom to sag, which makes the metal contacts inside lose their grip on the graphite pads. It’s been two months now and there is absolutely no drift in either of the Joy-Cons that [VK’s Channel] has shored up this way.

Nintendo is now fixing Joy-Cons for free. The problem is that they are replacing irreparable ones outright, so you have to agree that you will settle for a plain old gray, red, or blue instead of your special edition Zelda controllers or whatever you send them. Hopefully, this really is a permanent fix, and that Nintendo gives [VK’s Channel] a job.

You could forego the joysticks altogether and swap them out for touchpads. Suffering from XBOX drift instead? We have just the thing.

Continue reading “Fixing Joy-Con Drift With Recycle Bin Parts”

Buttonpusher Automates Animal Crossing Tasks

Press button, wait, press button again, repeat. There must be a better way! If that kind of interaction drives you nuts, you’ll probably appreciate [Tommy]’s buttonpusher, which has only one job: automate away some of the more boring parts of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing. On one hand the job the device does is very simple: press a button on the Nintendo joy-con in a preprogrammed pattern. There’s no feedback loop, it just dumbly presses and waits. But there are still quite a few interesting bits to this build.

Rigid mounting combined with interfacing the actuator to the servo horn (instead of to the servo shaft) were the keys to reliable button pushing.

For one thing, [Tommy] discovered that the little 9g RC servo can reliably exert enough force to press the button on the joy-con with the right adapter. He had assumed the servo would be too weak to do the job without a greater mechanical advantage, but a simple hammer-style actuator that attaches to the servo horn easily does the job. Well, it does as long as the servo and joy-con are held rigidly; his first version allowed a little too much wiggle in how well the parts were held, and button presses didn’t quite register. With a 3D-printed fixture to rigidly mount both the servo and the joy-con, things were fine.

In the process of making buttonpusher, which uses CircuitPython, [Tommy] created a tool to automate away another pesky task he was running into: circuitpython_tools was created to automatically watch for code changes, convert the .py files into (smaller) MicroPython bytecode .mpy files, then automatically deploy to the board. This saved [Tommy] a lot of time and hassle during development, but it was only necessary because he quickly ran out of memory on his M0 Metro Express board, and couldn’t fit his code in any other way.

Still, it’s a good example of how one project can sometimes spawn others, and lead to all kinds of lessons learned. You can see buttonpusher automate the crafting process in Animal Crossing in the video, embedded below.

Continue reading “Buttonpusher Automates Animal Crossing Tasks”

This Joy-Con Grip Steers Its Way To Sweaty Victory

Here at Hackaday we’re always exited to see hacks that recycle our favorite childhood consoles into something new and interesting. In that context, it’s not so uncommon to see mods which combine new and unusual control methods with old devices in ways that their manufacturers never intended. What [Mike Choi] has built with the Labo Fit Adventure Kit is the rare hack that combines radically new control schemes with a modern console: without actually modifying any hardware.

Face button pusher in blue

In short, the Labo Fit Adventure Kit lets the player play Mario Kart on the Nintendo Switch by riding a stationary exercise bike, steering with a wheel, and squeezing that wheel to use items. The Fit Kit combines the theme of Labo, Nintendo’s excellent cardboard building kit for the Nintendo Switch with the existing Ring-Con accessory for the unrelated Nintendo game Ring Fit Adventure plus a collection of custom hardware to tie it all together. That hardware senses cadence on the stationary bike, watches for the user to squeeze the handheld wheel controller, and translates those inputs to button presses on the controller to play the game.

Shoulder button pusher in green

The most fascinating element of this project is the TAPBO module which adapts the Joy-Con controller to remote input. The module includes electronics, actuators, and a clever mechanical design to allow it to be mounted to the Ring-Con in place of an unmodified Joy-Con. Electrically the components will be familiar to regular Hackaday readers; there is a breakout board for a Teensy which also holds an XBee module to receive inputs remotely and drive a pair of servos. The entire module is described in detail starting at 4:42 in the video.

Mechanically the TAPBO relies on a pair of cam-actuated arms which translate rotational servo motion into linear action to press shoulder or face buttons. The module directly measures flex of the Ring-Con with an added flexible resistor and receives cadence information from another module embedded in the stationary bike via Zigbee. When these inputs exceed set thresholds they drive the servos to press the appropriate controller buttons to accelerate or use an item.

We’ve focused pretty heavily on the technical aspects of this project, but this significantly undersells the level of polish and easy to understand documentation [Mike] has produced. It includes a TAPBO Amiibo in customized packaging, and more. Check out the full video to get the complete scope of this project.

Continue reading “This Joy-Con Grip Steers Its Way To Sweaty Victory”

Hackaday Links Column Banner

Hackaday Links: February 7, 2021

What’s that they say about death and taxes? Apparently that maxim doesn’t apply to Flash, at least when it comes to the taxman. As we noted last week, the end of the Adobe Flash era took with it a scheduling and routing app for the railway system in a Chinese city. This time around, it’s the unfortunately acronymed SARS, for South African Revenue Services, having Flash woes. They still have several online tax forms that haven’t been migrated to HTML5, so to keep the revenue flowing they built their own Flash-enabled browser. Taxpayers are free to download and use the browser while SARS works on getting the rest of their forms migrated. It sort of reminds us of those plans the Internal Revenue Service has to ensure tax collection continues after a nuclear apocalypse — death and taxes indeed.

Trouble for Nintendo in the EU? It looks that way, as consumer groups have made the case to EU regulators that Nintendo’s wildly popular Switch consoles are showing unacceptably premature obsolescence with the notorious “Joy-Con drift” issue. The problem, which manifests as players being unable to control a game due to constant movement despite no inputs on the joystick-like controller, requires a repair, one that Nintendo initially only did for free as warranty service for consoles less than a year old. For consoles out of the warranty period, Nintendo was charging €45, which is approximately the same as what a new controller would cost. This didn’t sit well with regulators, and now they’re breathing down Nintendo’s neck. They now offer free repairs for up to two years, but they’re still under the EU microscope. The interesting bit in the linked document is the technical reason for the problem, which is attributed to premature PCB wear — possibly meaning the traces wear away — and inadequate sealing of the Joy-Con mechanism against dust intrusion.

Last year looked as though it was going to be an exciting one with respect to some of our nearest solar and galactic neighbors. For a while there, it looked like the red giant Betelgeuse was going to go supernova, which would have been interesting to watch. And closer to home, there were some signs of life, in the form of phosphine gas, detected in the roiling atmosphere of our sister planet, Venus. Alas, both stories appear not to have panned out. The much-hoped-for (by me) Betelgeuse explosion, which was potentially heralded by a strange off-cycle dimming of the variable star, seems now to be due to its upper atmosphere cooling by several hundred degrees. As for Venus, the phosphine gas that was detected appears actually to have been a false positive triggered by sulfur dioxide. Disappointing results perhaps, but that’s how science is supposed to work.

Amateur radio often gets a bad rap, derided as a hobby for rich old dudes who just like to talk about their medical problems. Some of that is deserved, no doubt, but there’s still a lot of room in the hobby for those interested in advancing the state of the art in radio communications. In this vein, we were pleased to learn about HamSCI, which is short for Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation. The group takes to heart one of the stated primary missions of amateur radio as the “ontinuation and extension of the amateur’s proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.” To that end, they’ll be holding HamSCI Workshop 2021, a virtual conference that will be focused on midlatitude ionospheric science. This appears to be a real science conference where both credentialed scientists and amateurs can share ideas. They’ve got a Call for Proposals now, with abstracts due by February 15. The conference itself will be on March 19 and 20, with free admission. The list of invited speakers looks pretty impressive, so if you have any interest in the field, check it out.

And finally, we got a tip this week about a collection of goofy US patents. Everything listed, from the extreme combover to baby bum-print art, is supposedly covered by a patent. We didn’t bother checking Google Patents, but some of these are pretty good for a laugh. We did look at a few, though, and were surprised to learn that the Gerbil Shirt is not a garment for rodents, but a rodent-filled garment for humans.

Joy-Con Mod Gives Nintendo Switch Touchpad Control

While Valve’s Steam Controller ultimately ended up being a commercial flop, most users agreed its use of touch-sensitive pads in place of traditional analog joysticks or digital directional buttons was at least a concept worth exploring. Those same touchpad aficionados will likely be very interested in this modification by [Matteo Pisani], which replaces the analog joystick on a Nintendo Switch Joy-Con with a capacitive touch sensor.

As [Matteo] explains in his detailed write-up, the initial inspiration for this project was to create a permanent solution to joystick fatigue and drifting issues. He reasoned that if he removed the physical joystick completely, there would be no way for it to fail in the future. We’re not sure how many people would have taken the concept this far, but you can’t argue with the logic.

The original joystick is a fairly straightforward device, comprised of two analog potentiometers and a digital button. It’s connected to the Joy-Con’s main PCB with a 0.5 mm pitch flexible cable, so the first step for [Matteo] was to spin up a breakout for the cable in KiCad to make the development process a bit easier.

The board design eventually evolved to hold an Arduino Pro Mini, a digital potentiometer, and a connector for the circular touchpad. The Arduino communicates with both devices over I2C, and translates the high resolution digital output of the touch controller into an analog signal within the expected ranges of the original joystick. [Matteo] says he still has to implement the stick’s digital push button, but thanks to an impressive 63 levels of pressure sensitivity on the pad, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Now that he knows the concept works, the next step for [Matteo] is to clean it up a bit. He’s already working on a much smaller PCB that should be able to fit inside the Joy-Con, and we’re very interested in seeing the final product.

We’ve seen several interesting Joy-Con hacks since the Switch hit the market, including a somewhat less intense joystick swap. Between the Joy-Con and the legendary Wii Remote, Nintendo certainly seems to have a knack for creating input devices that catch the imagination of gamers and tinkerers alike.

Continue reading “Joy-Con Mod Gives Nintendo Switch Touchpad Control”

Get Nostalgic With These GameCube Themed Joy-Cons

There are a lot of good reasons to think fondly of the Nintendo GameCube. Metroid Prime and Rogue Leader knocked it out of the park. The Game Boy Player was cool. There’s even something to be said for having a convenient carrying handle on a system designed for couch multiplayer. But if you ask anyone who played Nintendo’s sixth generation console what part they missed the least, it would probably be the controller. With all the visual flair of a Little Tikes playset and ergonomics designed for an octopus, it’s a controller that works well for first-party Nintendo titles and little else.

So it’s probably for the best that these Switch Joy-Cons created by [Madmorda] focus on recreating the aesthetics of the GameCube controller for Nintendo’s latest money-printing machine rather than its feel. With a surprising amount of work required to create them, these definitely count as a labor of love by someone who yearns for the days when gaming was more…cubic.

To start with, nobody makes Joy-Con cases in that signature GameCube purple so [Madmorda] had to paint them herself. The longevity of a painted controller is somewhat debatable, but the finish certainly looks fantastic right now.

For the left analog stick [Madmorda] was able to use the cap from a real GameCube controller, which fit perfectly. Apparently, Nintendo has been pretty happy with their analog stick sizing decisions for the last two decades or so. The right analog stick was another story, however, and she had to cut the shaft down to size with a Dremel to get the cap to fit.

Finally, molds were made of the original face buttons, which were then used to cast new buttons with colored resin to match the GameCube color scheme. Since the original Switch buttons don’t have indented lettering to get picked up by the mold, she had to laser etch them. This little detail goes a long way to selling the overall look.

The final result looks great, and compared to previous attempts we’ve seen to bring some of that early 2000’s Nintendo style to the Switch, this one is certainly less destructive. Check them out in action after the break!

Continue reading “Get Nostalgic With These GameCube Themed Joy-Cons”

Thinking Inside The (Cardboard) Box With Nintendo Labo Hacks

Cardboard is one of the easiest ways to build something physical, far easier than the 3D printing and laser cutting we usually write about here. So when Nintendo released their Labo line of cardboard accessories, it doesn’t take a genius to predict the official product would be followed by a ton of user creations. Nintendo were smart enough to provide not only an internet forum for this creativity to gather, they also hold contests to highlight some of the best works.

The most impressive projects in the winner’s circle combined the one-of-a-kind cardboard creations with custom software written using Toy-Con Garage, the visual software development environment built into the Nintendo Switch console. Access to the garage is granted after a user runs through Nintendo Labo’s “Discover” activities, which walk the user behind the scenes of how their purchased Labo accessories work. This learning and discovery process thus also serves as an introductory programming tutorial, teaching its user how to create software to light up their custom cardboard creations.

It’s pretty cool that Nintendo opened up a bit of the mechanism behind Labo activities for users to create their own, but this is only a tiny subset of Nintendo Switch functionality. We have different hacks for different folks. Some of us enjoy reverse engineering details of how those little Joy-Cons work. Others hack up something to avoid a game puzzle that’s more frustrating than fun. And then there are those who are not satisfied until they have broken completely outside the sandbox.

[via Engadget]

Continue reading “Thinking Inside The (Cardboard) Box With Nintendo Labo Hacks”