Wireless game controller interface

Here’s the biggest problem I keep running into in my humanoid robotics projects, which I think the clever engineers at Pololu could probably solve:

We need a high-end game controller (something like the PS3 controller) which can be connected wirelessly to something like a Wixel — that is, something that connects simply to the UART of a microcontroller or single-board computer on the robot.

Sounds simple, right? But it’s not. A lot of the robot builders in Japan actually use a PS3 controller, but this requires that your robot run a full Linux stack so it can act as a HID master. I’ve managed this on a Raspberry Pi, but it wasn’t easy, and the RPi is a bit larger and more power-hungry than I would like anyway.

I’ve also used a third-party wireless PlayStation 2 controller; PS2 controllers speak basically I2C, and the aftermarket wireless versions just set up a radio link for the I2C stream. This works, but the receivers are rather bulky, since they’re designed to be plugged into a PS2, and the programming on the host end is more difficult than you’d expect (the standard Arduino I2C library doesn’t work very well, for example).

I’d love to plug a PS3 controller into a Wixel on one end, and stick another Wixel on my bot, but that doesn’t work, because the Wixel can’t act as a HID master.

I suppose you might be able to use a PS2 controller plugged into a Wixel (via an adapter, or by just hacking the cable), which has been programmed to decode the signals from that controller and send them on to the Wixel at the other end. You’d also have to provide power to both the PS2 controller (which is normally powered by the game console) and the Wixel, so I guess you’d end up with some little box on your hip, but if it works reliably, that’d be an acceptable price to pay.

As you can see, none of these solutions are particularly ideal. I enjoy working out the mechanics and programming of the robot itself, but these wireless communication issues drive me up a wall. What I would really love is a simple kit that either comes with its own game controller (sporting at least two analog joysticks and lots of buttons, please), or works with some standard off-the-shelf game controller, and connects wirelessly to a robot in the simple sorts of ways that Wixel can. And it needs to work in a radio-noisy environment like RoboGames; nothing’s more frustrating than spending a year building a bot, and then failing on the big day due to radio interference.

Anyway, there’s my plea… I hope you guys can think up a clever solution, as you’ve done for so many other problems!


Thank you for that suggestion. An out-of-the-box kit or adapter for a game controller does sound like a neat idea; however, we do not currently have any plans for something like that. We have seen people at RoboGames using the ArbotiX Commander wireless controllers, which have 2 joysticks and 8 buttons. You might consider looking into it, if you have not already done so. It might have what you are looking for.


I appreciate the reply. The ArboxtiX Commander is a good example of the sort of thing I’m looking for… but I bet you guys could do a much better job of the design. I mean yes, it has eight buttons, but six of them are behind the joystick and unreachable, and I have serious doubts about the other two. (And I thought the Xbox 360 controller had a poor design! :smiley: )

Anyway, I do hope you’ll give it some thought… there’s a need here, and current options don’t fill it very well.

Thank you; we appreciate your confidence, and we will keep the idea in mind. It might be hard to compete with some of the retail controllers that can be bought and hacked, even if it can be difficult or their design is not ideal.