Building a custom Xbox Adaptive Controller peripheral, part two

Last week, I officially introduced you to my project to build a custom input device for my daughter Ellie that she could use with the Xbox Adaptive Controller. I've had some time to think and fiddle since that post went up, and I'm ready to catch you up on the latest developments.

First up, I want to share a look at the screen Ellie will be viewing her gaming sessions on. It was no great feat to put together, but I'm happy with the outcome. After a busy day of sitting up at school, Ellie spends most of her afternoons chilling in her swanky new bed. Logically, that meant projecting a screen onto her ceiling. To get there, I zip-tied an old Haswell NUC and a cheap LED projector I had laying around into a small plastic basket with an extension cord running out of it. Behold.

It's a NUC in a box.

That certainly puts a whole new perspective on The Magic School Bus. Part of me regrets not buying a Gigabyte Brix PC with an integrated projector when they could be had for a couple hundred bucks a few years back. That would be pretty slick to use, but this solution isn't bad. The plastic shell keeps everything tidy and protected from overzealous vacuum robots, and it's stable enough to place nearly anywhere.

Back to the actual building of the controller. I've decided to continue pursuing the spin-actuated mechanical keyboard switch plan. An errant paint roller in the back of my car turned out to fit perfectly inside the rollers I picked. That made a huge difference in ease of construction and proved easy to integrate into my design. However, I may still need to source a switch that actuates at a shallower depth, so I can leave a larger gap and potentially reduce spinning resistance even further. A hair trigger is desirable in this case.

I'm still geeking out over how well the paint roller fits together with the foam-covered massage rollers.

A bag of hose clamps and $10 worth of paint rollers later, and I arrived at what you see above. I'm very pleased with how securely the hose clamps hold onto the rollers. They all but eliminate motion on all three axes thanks to the tee connector. That means the integrity of the finished controller will come down to the PVC connections themselves. I'm still trying to decide if I want to glue them or pin them in place. I know I don't want to use actual PVC cement to permanently fuse them, though. I'm just not that confident I'll be able to avoid breaking the contraption down for fine-tuning after assembly. Now, let's take a look at the rollers in motion.

Not mentioned in the video: I'm thinking about using 45° elbows to optimize the roller angle for Ellie.

I'm confident enough with the outcome demonstrated in the video to move ahead with trying to complete the first full prototype this weekend. I just need to double-check some measurements to make sure Ellie can reach everything before putting the frame together and routing all the cables through it. I suppose I also need to put some more thought into making sure nothing will tangle up in Ellie's hair, even though this will obviously be a supervised toy.

In the next update, we'll be looking at the entire device all put together and how it works out on the software side of things (I hope). Please don't be shy about sharing your thoughts and advice on what you've seen so far. I'm just making this up as I go along, and I'm open to testing out other ideas.

Continue reading: Parts onetwothreefour, and five.

Colton Westrate

I post Shortbread, I host BBQs, I tell stories, and I strive to keep folks happy.

Comments closed
    • psuedonymous
    • 1 year ago

    Depending on how DIY you want to go, you might want to look into the [url=https://softroboticstoolkit.com/components<]Soft Robotics Toolkit[/url<], particularly the sensors.

    • Pitabred
    • 1 year ago

    Given the profile of that roller, you might try wiring two switches in parallel so that depressing either of them completes the circuit, and then mount them next to each other so that the wave shape of that green roller can depress one of them with each spline, instead of it being actuated every other spline pass. That might give you more of that hair trigger action you’re looking for?

    Very cool work, can’t wait to see how it keeps going.

    • llisandro
    • 1 year ago

    Cool stuff. love the paint roller!

    Kailh speeds are cheap, and about the shortest-activating switch (1.1 mm, 3.5 mm travel). I wonder if kailh’s low-profile switches might be nice since they have such a wider “stem” to prevent binding. 1.5 mm actuation, 3 mm travel.

    Novelkeys is a reliable vendor for kailh stuff. Honestly, I’d happily mail you a couple, I’ve got a bunch of coppers and bronzes sitting in a box.

      • drfish
      • 1 year ago

      Thanks for the offer! The Kailh speeds are exactly the switch I was talking about and I’ve actually already got some on order. 🙂

      The original switches I picked up for experimenting with were linear, and I think that was a mistake. It’s hard for me to know when the switch is triggering unless I have it plugged in, so getting the distance to the roller fine-tuned is needlessly difficult. I think the clicky Kailh speed bronze keys will be perfect.

        • llisandro
        • 1 year ago

        good stuff, really enjoying this series 🙂

        • massbart
        • 1 year ago

        How about Japanese arcade buttons? They’re very different from American style buttons, in ways that could be good for your project: more sensitive because of lighter actuation force triggering earlier in the already shallower stroke instead of bottoming out; convex button faces that let fingers or foam rollers slide on and off smoothly instead of concave cups.

        Sanwa OBSF-30 is the standard button used in most JP commercial arcade cabinets so they’re made to take some abuse and be easy to service. Not sure if they’ll be as easy to install on your pipe, though. They’re meant to snap through thin panels and are held in place by squeezable tabs. Dimensions in the diagram here: [url<]http://www.akishop.jp/buttons/73-obsf-30.html#/color-pink[/url<] . They come in lots of fashion colors and you can pop and swap the plungers between different rims if you want to go for some pink/green two-tone action, or transparent if you want to install LEDs for visual feedback. 24mm and 30mm are the most common sizes (hole width), but they make other variants for larger holes or thicker panels. I'm less familiar with other brands, but I know some use screw in or friction fit instead of snap in designs. Never tried Kailh so not sure how Sanwas compare. Travel is a bit shorter than 3.5, and actuation is probably greater than 1.1 but under 1.5, and off-axis binding shouldn't be a problem. The convex shape is preferred by players that doubletap their inputs on purpose by staggered flicking of two fingertips or nails off the very edge of the button and rim, nowhere near the center. Not clicky at all, so no help in fine-tuning. I don't know the grams of actuation force required, but they're much softer than MX reds and trigger about as early as Alps/Matias switches. So they're pretty light and have a large landing area. If the rollers can ride up the rim, they'll fire. Maybe they're too wide for the peak-to-peak interval of your roller? I can probably find some leftovers if you want them to test. Genuine Sanwas run around 2 to 4 dollars each. You can find them on Amazon or specialty stores like [url=https://paradisearcadeshop.com/home/controls/505-buttons<]ParadiseArcadeShop.com[/url<] and[url=https://arcadeshock.com/collections/pushbuttons<]ArcadeShock.com[/url<] (those two are run by very mod-friendly tech-minded folks). And thanks for this blog series. After seeing your tests, I want to get an Adaptive Controller myself and mount some buttons sideways as flipper controllers for PC pinball games.

          • drfish
          • 1 year ago

          Sold, I just picked up a 6-pack on Amazon to add to my options for this project. Thanks for your input!

          I have a hunch that I’ll keep using the keyboard switches for the rollers, because the stem is useful for reaching into the gaps. I’ve been wondering about other switch options though, because I’d like to mount some switches behind toys so they trigger when the toy gets bumped. Specifically, I’d like to make a button from a ball pit ball, but I don’t want to spoil future updates by sharing more details. 🙂

          If you make a custom pinball controller, be sure to share. Pinball FX3 is one I’d thought about myself, but just with the buttons that are built into the controller in that case.

    • DPete27
    • 1 year ago

    I’m sure you’re well aware of how freakishly expensive “proper” AAC devices are. Once this is complete, you could be well on your way to a new career.

    • DPete27
    • 1 year ago

    I wonder if there’s any games that involve fireworks. Those rollers look prime for a finale-speed fireworks show.

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 1 year ago

    I suggest a can of spray paint on the PVC to match the color scheme of the foam.

      • drfish
      • 1 year ago

      A PVC dye treatment is on my shortlist. However, I need to confirm it’s safe. I’m worried paint would be too flakey, but it could be worth some tests.

      I do love the colors of the foam. 🙂

        • Anovoca
        • 1 year ago

        can always just go with stickers

          • drfish
          • 1 year ago

          My most likely course is a fabric cover, think the slip-on/Velcro sleeve that goes over the wire baby bouncing chairs. Maybe something like that

            • Anovoca
            • 1 year ago

            at that rate, i would just find a colorful sock

            • drfish
            • 1 year ago

            I like the way you think!

            • Convert
            • 1 year ago

            I wonder if wrapping it with vinyl wrap would work? I’m not sure if PVC’s low surface energy would prevent the adhesive from bonding, but if it worked it could be any color or design you could want and be easy to disinfect/wipe clean.

        • Physicist59
        • 1 year ago

        In almost all cases, paint will not stick to PVC, so I would avoid that. I have heard that if you coat the PVC pipe with the primer used for gluing, that paint will then stick to the PVC, but have not tried. All my efforts to paint PVC have ended up with paint that comes off very easily.

        Your idea of a dye, on the other hand, is intriguing. Might be worth checking out a few fabric or hair dyes.

          • Convert
          • 1 year ago

          They make dye that you mix in with the PVC cleaner and apply it that way. You can get a pack of 4 colors on eBay for about $15.

    • thedosbox
    • 1 year ago

    I admit I laughed as you struggled to remove the key switch after demonstrating how snug it was.

    Thanks for continuing to post about your progress on this.

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