PC gamers love their mice and keyboards, but some titles just work better with a controller. Anyone who has ever used an emulator to play games designed for consoles can attest to that. Many different USB gamepads are available, but a new Arduino-based gamepad might just persuade you to build your own, at least if you’re electronically inclined. The Arduino Esplora is a brand new do-it-yourself gamepad, and it’s a perfect my-first-Arduino project because it doesn’t require manipulating a breadboard or soldering.
The Esplora includes an analog joystick and four face buttons for traditional input, but also sports a handful of sensors: a linear potentiometer, microphone, light sensor, temperature sensor, and accelerometer. It also features a square-wave buzzer, an RGB LED, two TinkerKit inputs/outputs, and a TFT display connector.
The Esplora circuit board is 6.5-inches by 2.4-inches, and has four screw holes so you can build a case for your controller or even mount it to a surface like an arcade cabinet. It connects to your computer through USB 2.0, and can be completely custom-programmed by using the Arduino software. It even has libraries available to take advantage of the sensors without having to write everything from scratch.
This gamepad will eventually be available for purchase through the Arduino store, but Radioshack should have it as well. It’s not online quite yet, but the Arduino blog promises it will be out soon. The official price isn’t posted on its site, but it is available through press releases. It will apparently be available online for 41.90 euros, but the retail version will cost 44.90 euros. Currency conversion varies, but we’re looking at less than $ 60. Until it’s online, your best bet is to visit your local Radioshack in hopes of finding one right now. Obviously, other gamepads are available in a finished state for less money, but there’s not much entertainment or educational value in that, right?
Arduino-based kits and devices continue to impress. From aiding hotel thieves to computing in space, this tiny and inexpensive platform has made electrical tinkering exciting again. It’s not only novices that are taking advantage of it to learn the ropes, but some of the brightest electrical engineers are exploiting the capabilities of the Arduino platform to make working solutions quickly and cheaply. If you’ve been eying Arduino for a while, but you’ve been too worried about the difficulty, this is the project for you.
Read up about the platform, grab the Esplora, and start hacking away.