USB Comes To The ESP32

Since the ESP8266 came on the scene a few years ago and revolutionized the way microcontrollers communicate with other devices, incremental progress on this chip has occurred at a relatively even pace. First there was the realization that code could be run on the chip itself. Next the ESP32 was released which built more on that foundation. The next step in that process of improvement may be here now as well, with this project which turns the ESP32 into a USB host.

USB is not a native feature on all microcontrollers or even Arduino-compatible boards. While some do have it built in like those based on the 32u4 for example, most either don’t have it at all or rely on a separate on-board chip to do some form of translating. The ESP32 is lacking this advanced feature so the USB needs to be cobbled together from scratch if you want this specific board to be able to interface directly with peripherals. This project does just that, allowing for four USB 1.1 devices to be connected directly to the ESP32 without a separate dedicated chip.

If you’ve been waiting for USB on this tiny, capable microcontroller this might be your chance to try it out. All of the project’s code is available on the project page. And, while it is limited in scope, it’s easily able to handle a keyboard or mouse. This might be a more cost-effective way of doing something like a KVM switch rather than doing it with three Arduinos.

 

MouSTer Brings USB To Retro Computers

Folks who like the take the old Amiga out for the occasional Sunday drive usually do it because they have wistful memories of the simpler times. Back when you could edit documents or view spreadsheets on a machine that had RAM measured in kilobytes instead of gigabytes. But even the most ardent retro computer aficionado usually allows for a bit of modern convenience.

Enter the mouSTer. This tiny device converts a common USB HID mouse into something older computers can understand. It even supports using Sony’s PlayStation 4 controller as a generic game pad. While the firmware is still getting tweaked, the team has confirmed its working on several classic machines and believe it should work on many more. Considering the prices that some of these old peripherals command on the second hand market, using a USB mouse or controller on your vintage computer isn’t just more convenient, but will likely be a lot cheaper.

Confirmed retrocomputing superfan [Drygol] is a member of the team working on mouSTer, and in a recent post to his retrohax blog, he talks a bit about what’s happened since his last update over the summer. He also talks a bit about the challenges they’ve faced to get it into production. Even if you’re not into poking around on vintage computers, there are lessons to be learned here about what it takes to move from a handful of prototypes to something you can actually sell to the public.

We especially liked the details about the mouSTer enclosure, or lack thereof. Originally [Drygol] says they were going to have the cases injection molded, but despite initial interest from a few companies they talked to, nobody ended up biting because it needed to be done with relatively uncommon low pressure injection. While 3D printing is still an option, the team ended up using clear heatshrink tubing to create a simple conformal protective shell over the electronics. Personally we think it looks great like this, but it sounds like this is only a temporary solution until something a bit more robust can be implemented.

As you might imagine we’ve seen DIY projects that aimed to bring modern input devices to vintage computers like the Atari ST, but the diminutive proportions of the mouSTer and the fact that it’s a turn-key product is sure to appeal to those who want to minimize headaches when working with their classic gear.

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Mouse-Controller Hybrid Aims To Dominate In First-Person Shooters

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.

We see some great controller hacks around these parts; the force-feedback mouse is a particularly amusing example. Video after the break.

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Mouse-Controlled Mouse Controller Is Silly, But Could Be Useful

Useless machines are generally built as a fun pastime, as they do nothing of value by their very definition. The most popular type generally involves a self-cancelling switch. However, there’s plenty of other useless machines to build, and we think [Jeffery’s] build is particularly creative.

The build consists of an XY gantry that moves a standard computer mouse. To control the gantry, a Raspberry Pi feeds the system G-Code relative to the motion of a second mouse plugged into the single-board computer. It’s pretty standard fare overall, with the Pi sending commands to an Arduino that runs the various stepper motors via a CNC controller shield.

Yes, it’s a mouse that moves a mouse – and on the surface, this appears to be a very useless machine. However, we could imagine it being useful for remote control of a very old system that uses a non-standard mouse that is otherwise difficult to emulate. Additionally, it wouldn’t take much extra work to turn the XY gantry into a competent pen-plotter – of which we’ve seen many. Video after the break.

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Wireless Mouse Gets A Charging House

Mouse batteries always seem to die at the worst possible moment, like when you’re in the middle of pwning noobs or giving a presentation at work. [AyhamAS] was tired of having to look around for a replacement battery and decided to build a nice little charging dock for their mouse.

At the heart of this build is a TC4056A charging board inside the dock. Since this board is designed to charge 3.7 V batteries, [AyhamAS] removed the charge current-limiting resistor and replaced it with a pair of through-hole resistors. A switch on the back of the dock lets [AyhamAS] choose between the two values for fast or slow charging.

On the mouse side, [AyhamAS] cleverly used the receiver storage cubbyhole to house the contacts. Magnets in in the mouse and the dock and spring-loaded contacts add even more tactile feedback to the whole experience. The dock itself looks great, too — it’s made from acrylic that’s been sanded down to a matte finish. Check out the build video after the break.

If your mouse has a battery pack, you could always upgrade to a bigger one as long as there’s room.

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Baseball Cap Mouse Provides A Look-And-Click Interface

Once upon a time, the computer mouse didn’t exist. Early computers used a variety of other input devices, from the typical keyboard to more esoteric options such as joysticks or light pens. While the mouse as we know it dominates all, it doesn’t mean other tools can’t find their place. One such device is this hat mouse, from [Jacek Fedorynski].

The mouse consists of an Adafruit Feather nRF52840 Sense, mounted upon a basic baseball cap. The development board packs in a 9 degree-of-freedom motion sensor package featuring the ST LSM6DS33 acceleromater/gyro and LIS3MDL magnetometer. Through a robust sensor fusion algorithm, this enables the board to measure the orientation and motion of the wearer’s head with a great degree of finesse. This allows the user to look at different parts of the screen to move the mouse cursor, with the system working in an absolute rather than relative fashion. Commands are sent to the attached PC with the Feather’s built-in Bluetooth, avoiding the need for dangly cables running down the user’s neck. Files are available on Github for those eager to spin up their own.

Combined with some built-in accessibility aids in Windows, the setup allows the user to move the mouse well, with foot switches used to activate the left and right mouse buttons. For those who find using a traditional mouse difficult, this could be a great tool for better productivity. Of course, if you wish to learn more, it pays to take a look back at the very earliest days of mouse technology. Video after the break.

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Inputs Of Interest: BIGtrack Mouse Might Make You Squeal

You know me, I like to get my feet involved when I use my computer, which happens pretty much all day every day at this point. My cache of pedal inputs keeps growing like mushrooms in the darkness under my desk: every upper case letter in this post and dozens more have been capitalized with a shift pedal!

Naturally, I’ve thought about what it might be like to mouse with my toes. The more time I can spend with both hands on the keyboard, the better. I started sniffing around for foot-sized trackball candidates, thinking maybe I could just build one with regular mouse guts. Then I found a 15-year-old Golden Tee home edition console at a thrift store. It has a large ball and four buttons, so it seemed ripe for turning into a mouse as-is, or just stealing the ball to build my own. So far, that hasn’t happened, though I did solder a bunch of wires for testing out the controls. Continue reading “Inputs Of Interest: BIGtrack Mouse Might Make You Squeal”