An in-depth look at customizing a game controller for someone with physical disabilities.
In my free time I run a site called Thecontrollerproject.com. The Controller Project is a project in which volunteer tinkerers customize existing interfaces at the request of people with specific physical challenges. Often, it is a game controller that needs to be made. Unfortunately, insurance companies don't cover this kind of thing, so tinkerers like myself have stepped in to attempt to supply hacked-together solutions that don't cost a ridiculous amount.
In this series, I'll show you how we modify a Playstation3 controller for someone who has muscular dystrophy. Let's hop in and get started!
1. The controller
Here's the controller. It is a standard PS3 controller. The person who needs the modification intends to use this with the PS3 and also the computer. The Playstation controller is most desirable because the buttons require less force to push than an Xbox 360 controller, and the user finds the placement to be more comfortable as well.
2. The modification needed
Thomas, the person who needs the controller, has found that he doesn't have the strength to hold the triggers in. Unfortunately they are required for many games. He believes that if the triggers were located on the top of the controller he could use them, as he has more strength in his thumbs.
3. A peek inside
Here's the overall view of the inside of the controller. The triggers that need modification are located at the top of the image.
The plastic button/spring assembly removed on the trigger.
The rubber cover removed exposing the pressure sensitive resistors (I'm assuming). The Xbox360 uses a potentiometer and mechanical assembly instead. I was surprised to find this.
The trigger buttons with the frame removed.
4. A proposed solution
My first thought is that I could remove the frame that holds the trigger button pads. I could then 3D-print an insert that slides right in place that holds them horizontally instead of vertically. This would leave the ribbon intact and require no electrical modification. The placement won't be perfect, but it is a fair tradeoff. Unfortunately the placement of them will require that I cut a section of the controller off to allow access.
Here is a rough mock-up of the intended modification. You can see the additional buttons in black boxes at the top of the controller.
I would love to hear other ideas as to how to reposition these quickly and cheaply, in the comments. I'm doing this blog in real-time, so I have not yet completed this.