Xbox Controller Mod Gets Serious About Stick Drift

Many a gamer has found that after a few years of racing around the track or sending demons back from whence they came, the analog sticks on their trusty controller can start to drift around. Many times it’s a fairly minor problem, something you might only notice if you were really keeping an eye out for it, but it can definitely be annoying. Those handy with a soldering iron might just swap out the sticks for replacements once it gets to that point, but [Taylor Burley] wondered how difficult it would be to recalibrate the ailing sticks instead.

To be clear, [Taylor] acknowledges this approach is overkill. It would be cheaper and easier to just replace the drifting stick with a new one. Even if you take into account that new sticks might not be as high quality as the originals and could give up the ghost faster, this probably isn’t worth the effort. But that doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting hack.

In the video after the break, [Taylor] starts by explaining how stick drift occurs in the first place. Each axis of the stick is physically connected to the wiper of a potentiometer, so for 10K pots, the stick’s center point should correspond to a resistance of 5K. He then goes on to measure the resistance in a bad joystick, and sure enough, the center resistance is off by several hundred Ohms.

To fix this, he comes up with a simple circuit that places additional potentiometers between the wipers. With two joysticks and two adjustment pots per axis, that makes eight little adjustment wheels that need to be fiddled with to get the center points calibrated properly. In this case [Taylor] uses a controller diagnostic tool for the Xbox to quantify the impact his adjustments are making so he can dial it in perfectly, but the idea is the same no matter who’s logo is on the box.

We’d say this is the most overkill attempt at addressing the issue of stick drift on gaming controllers we’ve ever seen, but that title has to go to [Matteo Pisani], who replaced the analog stick on his Switch Joy-Con with a custom circular touchpad.

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Xbox Controller Gets Snap On Joystick From Clever 3D-Printed Design

Ball and socket linkages make for smooth operation.

People making DIY controls to enhance flight simulators is a vibrant niche of engineering and hackery, and it sure looks like Microsoft Flight Simulator is doing its part to keep the scene lively. [Akaki Kuumeri]’s latest project turns an Xbox One gamepad into a throttle-and-stick combo that consists entirely of 3D printed parts that snap together without a screw in sight. Bummed out by sold-out joysticks, or just curious? The slick-looking HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick) assembly is only a 3D printer and an afternoon away. There’s even a provision to add elastic to increase spring tension if desired.

The design looks great, and the linkages in particular look very well thought-out. Ball and socket joints smoothly transfer motion from one joystick to the other, and [Akaki] says the linkages accurately transmit motion with very little slop.

There is a video to go with the design (YouTube link, embedded below) and it may seem like it’s wrapping up near the 9 minute mark, but do not stop watching because that’s when [Akaki] begins to go into hacker-salient details about of how he designed the device and what kinds of issues he ran into while doing so. For example, he says Fusion 360 doesn’t simulate ball and socket joints well, so he had to resort to printing a bunch of prototypes to iterate until he found the right ones. Also, the cradle that holds the Xbox controller was far more difficult to design than expected, because while Valve might provide accurate CAD models of their controllers, there was no such resource for the Xbox ones. You can watch the whole video, embedded below.

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Interactive CNC Foam Cutter Churns Out Abstract Art

Foam is certainly an indispensable raw material for various craft and construction projects. Any serious sculptor however, inevitably grows tired of grinding through a foam block using a simple preheated utensil. The next step up, is to assemble a simple but thoroughly effective hot wire cutting contraption, formed out of a thin guitar wire held taut on a “C” shaped mounting frame. Finally, the addition of some electronics to regulate the power delivery makes this simple tool useful for most settings.

[Freddie] has taken this basic idea a step further, by building a complete multi-axis CNC foam cutter intended as an interactive exhibit on computational art. The CNC has the traditional three Cartesian axes but the platform hosting the foam piece can also rotate, introducing an additional degree of freedom. As this is indented to be controlled by attendees, there is no G-code in the mix, rather the inputs of an Xbox controller are applied directly to the work piece.

What is very interesting is how the resulting tool path is visualised and displayed. [Freddie] explains that while the user input tool path could be generated and displayed as equivalent G-code, it does not capture and convey the inherent organic nature of the finished pieces. The solution [Freddie] came up with is to display the toolpath much like a series of musical notes!

We would have loved to have a go at this machine in person, but seeing that isn’t possible in the current circumstances, you can either build a simpler machine we featured earlier or [Freddie] could perhaps fire up a camera and let us control it via the interweb, with a live video feed ofcourse!

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Automate Your Xbox

First the robots took our jobs, then they came for our video games. This dystopian future is brought to you by [Little French Kev] who designed this adorable 3D-printed robot arm to interface with an Xbox One controller joystick. He shows it off in the video after the break, controlling a ball-balancing physics demonstration written in Unity.

Hats off to him on the quality of the design. There are two parts that nestle the knob of the thumbstick from either side. He mates those pieces with each other using screws, firmly hugging the stick. Bearings are used at the joints for smooth action of the two servo motors that control the arm. The base of the robotic appendage is zip-tied to the controller itself.

The build targets experimentation with machine learning. Since the computer can control the arm via an Arduino, and the computer has access to metrics of what’s happening in the virtual environment, it’s a perfect for training a neural network. Are you thinking what we’re thinking? This is the beginning of hardware speed-running your favorite video games like [SethBling] did for Super Mario World half a decade ago. It will be more impressive since this would be done by automating the mechanical bit of the controller rather than operating purely in the software realm. You’ll just need to do your own hack to implement button control.

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Add-On Board Brings Xbox 360 Controllers To N64

Many of the games released on the Nintendo 64 have aged remarkably well, in fact a number of them are still considered must-play experiences to this day. But the years have not been so kind to the system’s signature controller. While the N64 arguably defined the console first person shooter (FPS) genre with games like “Goldeneye” and “Perfect Dark”, a modern gamer trying to play these classics with the preposterous combination of analog and digital inputs offered by the N64 controller is unlikely to get very far.

Of course, you could play N64 games in an emulator and use whatever controller you wish. But where’s the challenge in taking the easy way out? [Ryzee119] would much rather take the insanely complex route, and has recently completed work on an add-on board that let’s you use Xbox 360 wireless controllers on Nintendo’s 1996 console. He’s currently prepping schematics and firmware for public release, with the hope that support for additional USB controllers can be added by the community.

Nintendo historians may recall that the N64’s controllers had an expansion port on the bottom where you would connect such accessories as the “Rumble Pak” and “Controller Pak”. The former being an optional force feedback device, and the latter a rather oddly named memory card for early N64 games which didn’t feature cartridge saves. Only “90’s Kids” will recall the struggle of using the “Rumble Pak” when a game required the “Controller Pak” to save progress.

Thankfully [Ryzee119] has solved that problem by adding battery backed storage to his adapter along with some clever code which emulates the “Controller Pak”. Similarly, the “Rumble Pak” is emulated by the Xbox 360 controller’s built-in force feedback and a bit of software trickery. Specific button combinations allow for enabling and disabling the various virtual accessories on the fly.

But the best part of this modification might be how unobtrusive the whole thing is. Not only does it allow you to still use the original controllers and accessories if you wish, but it only requires soldering a handful of wires to the console’s motherboard. Thanks to the surprising amount of dead space inside the system’s case, it’s not even a challenge to fit the board inside. You do need to use the official USB Xbox 360 controller receiver, but even here [Ryzee119] opted to put a USB port on the board so you could just plug the thing in rather than having to cut the connector off and trying to solder it to the board yourself.

It probably won’t come as a surprise that this isn’t the first time [Ryzee119] has fiddled with the internals of a classic Nintendo system. We’ve previously covered his fantastic custom PCB to fit a Raspberry Pi Zero into a GameBoy Advance.

[Thanks to Gartral for the tip.]

VR Telepresence Tank From Raspberry Pi, Google Cardboard, And Xbox Controller

It’s great to see different kinds of hardware and software tossed into a project together, allowing someone to mix things that don’t normally go together into something new. [Freddy Kilo] did just that with a project he calls his VR Robot Tank. It’s a telepresence device that uses a wireless Xbox controller to drive a tracked platform, which is itself headed by a Raspberry Pi.

The Pi has two cameras on a pan-tilt mount, and those cameras are both aimed and viewed via a Google Cardboard-like setup. A healthy dose of free software glues it together, allowing things like video streaming (with U4VL) and steering via the wireless controller (with xboxdrv). A bit of fiddling was required for some parts – viewing the stereoscopic cameras for example is done by opening and positioning two video windows just right so as to see them through the headset lenses. It doesn’t warp the image to account for the lens distortion in the headset, and the wireless range might be limited, but the end result seems to work well enough.

The tank is driven with the wireless controller while a mobile phone mounted in a headset lets the user see through the cameras; motion sensing in the phone moves those cameras whenever you move your head to look around. Remote Control hobbyists will recognize the project as doing essentially the same job as FPV setups for model aircraft (for example, Drone Racing or even Snow Sleds) but this project uses a completely different hardware and software toolchain. It demonstrates the benefits of having access to open tools to use as virtual “duct tape”, letting people stick different things together to test a concept. It proves almost anything can be made to work if you have a willingness to fiddle!

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joystick plus arduino

Arduino + Servo + Scotch Tape == An Interesting Conversation

If one could temporarily remove their sense of humor and cast a serious look into a Rube Goldberg machine, they would not say to themselves “well that looks simple.” Indeed, it would almost always be the case that one would find themselves asking “why all the complexity for such a simple task?”

Too often in hacking are we guilty of making things more complicated than they really need to be. Maybe it’s because we can see many different paths to a single destination. Maybe it’s because we want to explore a specific path, even though we know it might be a little harder to tread. Maybe it’s just because we can.

rubegoldberg

But imagine approaching a hack as simply a means to an end. Imagine if you did not have all of that knowledge in your head. All of those tools at your disposal. How would this change your approach? When [yavin427] decided to automate the leveling up process in his favorite video game, odds are he had never taken a game controller apart. Had never touched an oscilloscope. Indeed, he might have no knowledge of what a transistor or microcontroller even is. While many of our readers would have taken the more difficult path and tapped directly into the TTL of the controller to achieve maximum efficiency; it is most likely that [yavin427] would not have known how to do this, and thus would not have seen the many other paths to his end goal that would have been obvious to us. Yet he achieved his end goal. And he did it far easier and with less complication than many of us would have done.

Thoughts?

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