Hack-a-day.com has always been one of my favourite places to while away a few hours/days online! It is full of passionate and knowledgeable makers who always come up with the most amazing software and hardware hacks and freely share their knowledge.
None more so than Hack-a-day veteran, Caleb Kraft, who came to meet young Thomas, a keen MInecraft gamer with muscular distrophy. Thomas’s disease means he’s going to lose strength and control in his muscles over time.
As he puts it, “Gaming, as you can imagine, is very important to [Thomas] and people like him. It offers a release of frustration, like it does for all of us, but also a level playing ground. When he’s in the game, he’s like everyone else.”
After a little research into existing gaming solutions for less abled players, he came to a frustrating conclusion. Even simple pressure switches run to seventy to eighty dollars! Plus adding insult to injury, it transpires that insurance companies often won’t pay for gaming aids because they don’t regard it as a necessity.
Kraft felt he had to help.
He designed and devised a system, not only for Thomas, but modular and broad enough to help many other people with conditions that limit their movement or with missing limbs. Kraft’s system emulates keyboard presses and mouse clicks, making theses functions available via individual switches that can be positioned on a repositionable lap-board or even attached to the player’s body.
When US 3D printer manufacturer Lulzbot, heard about this project, they swiftly donated a 3D printer to help, allowing components to be prototyped and tested quickly. All the plans and models have been made available to download and tinkerers everywhere are being encouraged to add to and improve the concept.
Thomas appears to love his new gaming devices but as well as that, Kraft realised, “I couldn’t just walk away. I went from thinking I would make [Thomas] a thing, to thinking I’d make a thing that would be perfect for EVERYONE!”
Using his position as a hacking guru and community builder, the whole project has now been documented and has taken on a whole new life at Thecontrollerproject.com, a forum where people can offer their services to build custom interfaces.
If you are in any way a hacker, modder or just want to help, you should check out the site and maybe they can use your skills to make someone’s life better.
The 3D printable files are downloadable from Makerbot’s Thingiverse repository below:
The blank controller shape for sticking things to.