Building a custom Xbox Adaptive Controller peripheral, part three

In part two of this blog series, I introduced my idea of using paint rollers as the mechanism for allowing easy rotation of the foam massage rollers that trigger keyboard switches connected to the Xbox Adaptive Controller. If that perfectly logical sentence isn't crystal clear to you, you may want to start from the beginning before reading further. As things worked out, I didn't have near the free time over the last weekend that I'd hoped for, and I only made a fraction of the progress I'd intended. However, a couple helpful suggestions from the comments on last week's post lead to the acquisition of some new hardware that's worth talking about, let's start there.

TR gerbil llisandro read my mind and suggested Kailh Speed switches as an option for a switch that would actuate with a very small amount of travel. That's something I've discovered is especially important for the method by which they'll be triggered in my project. I ordered Bronze and Copper switches from Novel Keys, and they arrived in just two days. I think I'm going to be very happy with them, and they fit inside my threaded PVC adapters even more snugly than my original switches. Another helpful post came from TR gerbil massbart, who suggested I take a look at Sanwa arcade buttons. I ordered a six-pack from Amazon and I'm excited by their potential. Check it out.

Form following function.

As you can see by the end of that video (or just the thumbnail if you didn't watch it), I do have the rough shape of the "controller" coming together. I wanted to start by getting the outside dimensions established before splicing in the other connectors to hold the switches and legs of the device. With the assistance of a century-old rubber mallet that I got from my grandfather, the frame is holding together ever better than I expected without gluing or pinning. I think the hose clamps on the paint rollers are actually compressing the ends of the tee connectors enough to get a better grip in the pipe inside. It may end up that force is all that's needed to stop undesired torsion in the frame.

I do need to make the frame at least a few inches longer, though. The top of Ellie's head hits the tube running across the top as things are now, but it's close. I'll probably also narrow it by a few inches after some additional testing. Beyond that, I obviously need to cover up any pokey bits with something soft (possibly pool noodles) and fish the wires through the tubing and out one of the fittings. Now, speaking of testing…

The sweet taste of validation.

I can't express how stoked I was to see Ellie start spinning that roller, even if it didn't have a switch on it quite yet. Clearly, the paint roller was much more successful than my first attempt with trying to have her spin the roller directly on the PVC tube. She was so proficient at it, so quickly, that it has me wondering if I should buy two more of the little rollers and just use them for the foot switches as well. The big pink roller is starting to look pretty clunky and difficult to spin by comparison.

If I used small rollers for the feet, I could set one for forward movement and the other for jumping, that's pretty tempting. Without the big pink roller, I wouldn't even need to add legs to the frame because the green rollers have plenty of clearance just from the height of the fitting they are strapped to. It would also be nice to keep the profile of this contraption very low for easy storage. I think I'm talking myself into this idea. Surely, I can find another use for the big roller…

Continue reading: Parts onetwothreefour, and five.

drfish

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

Comments closed
    • Anovoca
    • 9 months ago

    I like the idea of the sanwa switches. Whatcomes to mind for me is a row of 4 of them, well spaced, with a modular cap system. While you stated you weren’t looking to use anything like a 3d printer, I love the idea of making game function specific button caps that could be swapped out for corresponding in game actions.

    Another idea I have been mulling over would be to change the motion control approach from a key switch to a up/down or left/right toggle switch that would be spring loaded to return to center. That would allow you to use one roller to signal left or right, up or down base on the direction it is spun. This would hopefully both teach Ellie causality relationships but also reduce the amount of components that would require her attention.

    I think the most interesting idea but probably the more difficult to execute homemade would be an oversized trackball. I think you could keep with the paint-roller approach, using 4 rollers for up down left right. But finding the right ball to responsively spin the rollers could be a challenge. and then adding some sort of structure for holding the ball in place. I also see spin resistance being a huge limitation. If Ellie cant get a good tactile spin for minimal effort, it might not hold her interest to use.

      • drfish
      • 9 months ago

      So many ideas I want to share back, but I’ve gotta save some for future posts, heh.

      Let me just say this, ball pit balls are light enough for the Sanwa switches to easily push back up.

      Also, my grandpa had a fake bundle of dynamite with an real mercury switch on it that would alarm if you moved it.

      I’ve already said too much!

        • Anovoca
        • 9 months ago

        hehehehe. I will mull over the track ball idea some more and if I find any workable solutions I will PM. At the moment, I think the easiest hack would be to use a large ball to spin over the top of an actual track ball (or upside down roller mouse), then just program or rewire the track ball switches to be inverted. That would just leave housing to sort out.

    • Anovoca
    • 9 months ago

    So, what program are you planning to run with this? Just Curious.

      • drfish
      • 9 months ago

      It’s a “spoiler” for part four, but we’re going to try [url=https://store.steampowered.com/app/219680/Proteus/<]Proteus[/url<] first. Beyond that, I'm openly soliciting for recommendations.

        • Anovoca
        • 9 months ago

        alright. That gives me a platform to work from and see what I can find out there.

        • Anovoca
        • 9 months ago

        Hohokum looks the most promising though I’m not sure if you can find it for the correct platform. I think , if all goes well with functionality of the controls, age might be the biggest limiting factor for finding suitable games. Most kid games I’m finding for < 4yo are all touchscreen swipe controls.

          • drfish
          • 9 months ago

          Thanks for putting thought into this! I’m not so worried about the age rating for the game. Underlying sophistication/intent can be ignored. Here are the two priorities as I see them.

          1) Does the game do something that’s visually or audibly obvious when limited to 1-4 inputs?
          2) Does the game allow the player to stay in the gameworld indefinitely without trapping them in a menu?

          I’ve got a good feeling about Proteus, but maybe something like Minecraft in creative mode would work.

          It doesn’t have to be an FPS though. Anything with simple cause and effect logic could work. Think, spinning hits a drum or launches a firework. Not, spinning moves a cursor and lets me do X afterward. One layer deep. Etch A Sketch > MS Paint

          I hope that helps.

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 9 months ago

    I’m very much enjoying reading these!

      • drfish
      • 9 months ago

      Thanks, I found out last week that [url=https://twitter.com/brycej/status/1051566012460490752<]Microsoft is too[/url<]. Took me completely by surprise, I don't even use Twitter except as a login to upload my Theta 360 photos. The pressure is on now. o_0

        • MrDweezil
        • 9 months ago

        Very cool for you that they noticed your project. But moreso, it must be so cool for them to see you do it. Putting this weird controller-hub-thing out into the world is one thing, but it must be incredibly validating to see it land in the hands of someone who has someone who could benefit from it in their life, and also has the ability and drive to rig something up.

    • juzz86
    • 9 months ago

    Second video warms my heart, Fish. She’s a sweetie.

    I enjoy these updates immensely mate – you’re a clever fella! Top job.

      • llisandro
      • 9 months ago

      hear, hear!

      I’m trying to remember the name of an indie game where you sort of just traveled down a “tube” with techno and changing lights and hitting the controls sped you up or slowed you down, but mostly you were just cruisin along with fun colors. I wonder if she might dig those sort of “flow” games?

        • drfish
        • 9 months ago

        Hmm, Audiosurf, that has potential. I’d want to string together a bunch of songs so she could have longer play sessions between visits to a menu. It will be hard for her to distinguish between what the game is doing for her and what she is doing herself, though. I’d need some really slow songs too…

          • llisandro
          • 9 months ago

          yeah, I don’t think that’s the exact one I was thinking about, but it’s in the right vein. Almost just like an audio visualization plugin that responds to simple inputs.

      • Aether
      • 9 months ago

      Same. I have really watching your progress making this!

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