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A mouth and voice operated game controller, mouse, and keyboard to assist a disabled gamer in playing games on the PS3, PC or Android

The QuadStick has a joystick, four sip & puff sensors, a lip position sensor, and a push switch, connected to a 32 bit ARM processor that converts the sensor inputs into USB and Bluetooth signals for host devices.

QuadStick Game Controller
QuadStick Game Controller

The QuadStick appears to a PS3 or PC host as a Gamepad, Mouse, Keyboard and Flash drive and works directly with them.  It can also be used with the Xbox 360 and Xbox One with the appropriate adapter. The logical mapping or connections between the sip & puff sensors and the signals sent to the host are configurable by the user and can be changed between preconfigured profiles, while playing, to match different situations in a game, as demonstrated in the video below:

In the Press:

Engadget, Wired, Cnet, PhysOrg, VG24/7, Pocket-lint, Hot Hardware, EuroGamer, Polygon, Gizmag

QuadStick Default Setup
QuadStick Default Setup

Custom Configurations:

The configuration of the QuadStick is stored in an internal Flash drive.  Configuration files are derived from specially formatted Google Drive Spreadsheets, and new configurations for different games or setups can be downloaded into the QuadStick while it is connected to a PS3 or PC.

The default configuration file works well for many games, but it is helpful to have specialized configurations for certain games or to better match up with a player's preferences, physical abilities or range of motion.

Configuration spreadsheets can be easily shared on-line between users and/or caregivers.  Users can quickly download a new configuration generated by themselves or someone else using the PS3 web browser.  Users can easily contribute and trade configuration spreadsheets with each other. Multiple configuration files can be stored in the internal flash and then selected during play.

Voice commands:

Using Dragon Naturally Speaking (DNS) or Windows Speech Recognition (WSR) and a collection of free software packages, it is possible to add voice commands to your options for controlling the game. 

The voice command vocabulary allows the user to speak the name of a control, such as Circle or Triangle, and, optionally, give a command to press it for specific time periods or strength.  It also allows sequential commands, with predetermined timing, to be triggered with just one word or short phrase.  Essentially, any of the output signals that can be activated with a QuadStick sensor input can also be triggered by a voice command.

Alternate words for commands like Reload, Jump, Fire, Aim Rifle, Crouch Down can be scripted as game specific aliases to match up with controller layouts that differ between games.  For instance, in Call of Duty, Jump is X; in the original Bio Shock, Jump is Triangle.  A common vocabulary allows the player to concentrate on the action, not the specific controller button.

Another example is in MLB13 where "Pick off first" (or second or third) triggers a long L2 press followed by quick double clicks of Circle, Triangle or Square to perform that play.  These commands can be created or altered by the user.

Voice commands are also used to help manage the QuadStick operation itself, to load new configuration files, to change the active mode or to temporarily re-map one or two buttons to the lip sensor.  While not required to successfully use the QuadStick, voice commands make it easier and simpler to perform certain actions that otherwise might require a specific configuration profile.

The full User Manual is available on the QuadStick website.

Top View
Top View

How the QuadStick came to be:

My first exposure to assistive technologies happened when my mom had ALS. When her speech became affected, we bought her a computerized speech system.  When movement became difficult, she started using devices to help her continue to use the computer.  Ever since, being a designer of digital control systems, I've searched for an idea for something I could design that would help to alleviate problems for people like my mom in a way that was not being adequately addressed by the market.

When I read a newspaper story about Ken Yankelevitz and his Quad Control Joystick, I knew I had found that idea.  Video games today are as much about the social aspects as they are about presenting an intellectual puzzle or entertainment, and, developing a tool that would allow disabled gamers to play those games at a high level would allow them to more fully participate in that world.  There were several solutions that let quadriplegics use a computer fairly well; but for modern game consoles, where speed and timing are critical, few products seemed to really solve the problem, especially for gamers with very limited mobility.  Ken has been making video game joysticks for quadriplegics since the 1980's but was getting into his seventies, and due to health reasons, has stopped taking orders for new joysticks.

I contacted Ken, and through a series of visits and phone calls, the general design requirements for the QuadStick began to emerge.   I first looked at using one of the off-the-shelf cpu modules, like Arduino or a Beagle variant, but there was always something that mismatched with the application requirements, so I ended up choosing an ARM CPU I was familiar with from my work at Cisco.  The first prototypes were about twice the size of the current design and included things like back-lit displays and more I/O, but it would have been about twice as expensive to produce.

First prototype of the QuadStick
First prototype of the QuadStick

3D renderings of the first prototype design can be found here and the second design here

Matt Victor, one of Ken's longtime customers and a C1 quadriplegic, who has no movement or feeling from the neck down, contacted me and volunteered to help test the QuadStick.  He's been using it daily for more than six months. Over that time, after operating the QuadStick with only voice commands and his mouth, he gave feedback and critiques that have resulted in many changes to the design and operation of the QuadStick, and we feel it is finally ready to offer to others.

Getting the mouthpiece shape and design right has been the biggest challenge.  We have tested many different materials and shapes to arrive at a mouthpiece that is both accurate and comfortable to use for long periods of game play.

Mouthpiece experiments
Mouthpiece experiments

We tried over a dozen different mouthpiece designs, with features like bite pressure sensors (which proved impracticable for a C1 who can't move forward to use it), and finally selected a three hole mouthpiece with an analog lip position sensor, which has worked out very well.  We also experimented with different materials, molds and ways to produce the mouthpiece before arriving at the latest 3D printed version.

Hardware details: Joystick & Mouthpiece

QuadStick front view
QuadStick front view
  • Three Sip/Puff tubes
  • Lip position sensor
  • X-Y position
  • Push switch

Additional Sip/Puff tube on right side of the joystick.

Five Blue/Red Status Leds used to indicate: Sensor activation, active configuration profile, boot process, self test and USB connection status.

Four Green Status Leds: External outputs status on top pair, external inputs status on bottom pair.

Rear Panel:

QuadStick Rear Panel
QuadStick Rear Panel
  • USB-B connector for power and/or data connection to Host device.
  • USB-A connector for hosting second daisy chained gamepad (not implemented) or Auxiliary Digital Inputs for 8-way external joystick.
  • Output Jack: 3mm stereo jack with two optically isolated outputs.
  • Input Jack: 3mm stereo jack which can connect to two switches or 4-way joystick or TTL-3.3 Volt Serial Port or as a Secondary logic level output.
  • Speaker for audio feedback.
  • Infrared Transmitter for A/V equipment remote control (future use).
  • AMPS mount hole pattern.

Connectivity:

The QuadStick mainly uses a USB connection to connect to a host console or PC but also has a Bluetooth module that can be used to connect to a second device.  The Bluetooth module can be configured as a Human Interface Device (HID - generic joystick, keyboard and/or mouse) or as a serial connection. 

The primary use cases for the Bluetooth module are:

  • Serial connection to PC for Voice command option
  • HID device to a second host, while connected by USB to a primary host.  Which host receives commands can be changed on the fly.
  • HID device for an Android tablet, while receiving power from either the tablet or USB charger.

Bluetooth limitations:

  • PS3 Gamepad mode is not supported over Bluetooth, so the PS3 must always be used over the USB connection.
  • HID and Serial port modes are mutually exclusive, and if the QuadStick is paired as one device type, it must be un-paired before changing to another type.
  • The Flash drive is not available through the Bluetooth

The 3mm external input connection can be used as a 3.3v Logic level serial port instead of the Bluetooth serial port for Voice applications.

Host Platform USB limitations and caveats:

The Quadstick is a "composite" device:  it emulates multiple different devices (joystick, keyboard, mouse & flash drive) through a single connection.  The PC, Mac and PS3 allow access to all of these functions.  The situation is different, however, for other platforms. 

  • Android: the joystick, keyboard and mouse functions work fine.  The flash drive is not normally accessible unless the android device is "rooted" and special software installed.  This has not been tested. 
  • Xbox 360/One: These hosts do not work directly with the QuadStick at all.  They use proprietary protocols to lock down access to their consoles against 3rd party USB devices, like the QuadStick.  There is however a device (http://controllermax.com/) that will allow the Joystick/Game Controller function of the QuadStick to work with these consoles. We have tested it with both the XBox 360 and XBox One.  Please note that the process of attaching a QuadStick to an Xbox requires plugging a wired native Xbox controller into the adapter first, then swapping that with the QuadStick's cable.  The mouse, keyboard and flash drive functions are not functional when used through an adapter.  For loading new configuration files, the quadstick will have to be connected to a host that supports the flash drive.
  • PS4:  At this time there is no PS4 support for the Joystick function.  The keyboard, mouse and flash work fine.  ControllerMax (formerly CronusMax) is working on adding the PS4 to their product, but have no estimated delivery date.

The USB-A port is currently used for external switch inputs.  It *may* be used by a future firmware update to host a second controller to mix its signals with the QuadStick, but on units delivered for this Kickstarter, the USB-A host function will not be working.

Current status:

Five working prototypes have been built, and the firmware and configuration scripts have been stable for several months.  As a result of our testing, numerous improvements, such as adding Voice commands and swapping the bite sensor for a lip sensor, have been made as we worked through the requirements presented by various games.  Games like Call of Duty, Bio Shock, Journey, Assassin's Creed and Grand Turismo, plus several sports games have been successfully played.

Prototype QuadStick without enclosure
Prototype QuadStick without enclosure
Edge view
Edge view
Prototype QuadStick PCB with Bluetooth module
Prototype QuadStick PCB with Bluetooth module
PCB Layout
PCB Layout

Rewards:

The intangible reward of supporting the project while receiving nothing but "thanks" on a website or getting on a mailing list may not seem like much, but this whole project is driven by intangible reward.  When the idea to do this product popped into my head, there was no "not doing it."  I was immediately all-in; because once you see the need for it, and you have the ability and means to do it, you can't ignore the idea.  Backing at the "Karma" level, for five or ten bucks or more, goes directly into making it possible to continue development of this product, to add new features and improvements in the manufacture of it. Thank you.

T-shirts rewards and Kickstarter projects go together like PB&J.  Proudly show you helped launch a product that can really make a difference in someone's life.

You need this shirt
You need this shirt

The backers of the first 25 units not only receive their QuadSticks first, they also have the opportunity to help shape the community of users at the ground floor.  While the default configuration works well for many games, some games present situations that require a custom configuration, like climbing a wall in Call of Duty.  Every new game where users identify these unique situations helps in creating configuration files that not only benefit them, but benefit new users that will follow them.  The choice of using a Google Spreadsheet as the core of the custom configuration process had as much to do with the ease of sharing the result as it did with the functionality.   Matt has worked out the configurations and strategies for a C1 playing numerous games.  The first 25 backers will benefit from that effort and can multiply it out for gamers with different ranges of motion, preferences and games.

Don't need a QuadStick or know anyone who does?  Consider backing one and have it shipped to Able Gamers (ablergamers.com).  They will grant the QuadStick to a worthy disabled recipient.  When the fulfillment questionnaire goes out asking where to ship the reward, just enter their address.

The production units will follow starting two months after the first 25.  Backers at this level will determine if the QuadStick becomes a viable product.  The QuadStick is a specialized product for an under-served segment of the population.  For business reasons, the big game manufacturers have largely ignored this group of gamers who could be among their most fervent customers.  If QuadStick can someday convince the makers of the X-Box or PS4 to support its use with their consoles, it will be because of this group of supporters.

The QuadStick comes complete with a RAM Mount Suction base and 10 foot long USB cable so a person can get playing right away.

RAM Mount and cable included so you can get playing right away
RAM Mount and cable included so you can get playing right away

Patron level backers at the $1000 and $5000 level.  You've got to ask yourself, why would you back some project like this for that kind of money?  I think because you can imagine that if you found yourself, or if you were the parent of a child, facing the reality and challenges of living as a quadriplegic, you'd want something like the QuadStick to exist, and you're in a position to help make that happen.  And we are right back to that intangible reward thing. 

Production Plans:

Production plans are somewhat contingent on the results of the campaign.  The cost of electronic assembly is strongly dependent on economies of scale, so a decision on going to an assembly house vs doing the work in house will depend on the numbers.  The setup costs for an assembly house run needs to be amortized over enough units to justify itself, which is between 50 and 75 units.   In any event, the first 25 will be done in house using existing equipment.  The product was designed to be built using basic surface mount tools.

Beginning of March:  Order all parts and the printed circuit boards.

The full parts lists, or bills of materials, have been uploaded to the various parts vendors, such as Arrow, Digikey, Mouser and Future; so once we know the quantity, the orders can be placed without delay.

Order the PCB boards.  The same vendor that fabricated the prototypes will be used.  The turn around time for PCBs can be selected so they arrive when needed.

Send the CAD file, with all the cutouts and holes, to the enclosure vendor to have the covers machined.   Three week lead time.

Machine the joystick arms and print the mouthpieces and centering spring holders while waiting for parts to arrive.    

Late March:  Organize the incoming parts and load the manual pick and place parts carriers.  If using an assembly house for the subsequent deliveries, prepare kits of non-commodity parts for them.

April:  Begin assembly of the first 25 PCBs.  Order shipping materials and accessories, like RAM Mounts, cables, printed materials.

May:  Final mechanical assembly, test and shipment by the end of the month.  Start preparing for the next run.

Acknowledgements, media clips used by kind permission:

Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life 

Music: The Dead Vineyard, Signal Hill

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

I have been designing and manufacturing microprocessor-based products for many years, mostly for the Building Automation, Energy Management and Process Control industries. In 1988, I co-founded Zeta Engineering Corp, as its chief engineer, which became Richards-Zeta in the mid-nineties, until it was purchased by Cisco Systems in 2009. I have worked in every technical aspect of product development, testing and manufacturing during that time and have been involved with numerous production runs, both large and small.

Depending on how successful the campaign is, I will either assemble the QuadSticks myself or use a nearby assembly house. I have quotes for 50 and 100 piece builds, though lead time is not certain until an order is placed.

The ultimate scale of a Kickstarter campaign is unknown up front; a project can just meet its goal, or it can grow far beyond that. The specialized nature of QuadStick makes it even harder to predict. I've structured the reward delivery schedule to accommodate meeting both the basic goal and any substantial orders beyond that, by allowing a time gap between the delivery of the first 25 units and those that follow. This gives time to schedule for an assembly house to make the devices, should the demand present itself, or to make them in lower quantities with my own equipment at a reasonable rate and still meet the commitments.

Parts availability is always a concern for a hardware project. An assembly house has committed the CPUs for 50 units to be used in the project, and distributors have plenty of available stock for all the other critical sole sourced parts, like the pressure sensors & bluetooth module, for any foreseeable quantities.

The software and prototype hardware have been running reliably for several months. The PCB will be a new revision, but it is only slightly changed from the current prototypes.

I chose 25 units for the first run because I feel that is a reasonable number of users to support in getting setup in the first wave of shipments.

FAQ

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