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This unique controller was created by Indie developer Alan Zucconi. It allows players to control a virtual spaceship by only hovering their hands over a series of sensors. It was discovered on the floor in the “Alternative Input” exhibit at the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2015 in San Francisco. Gamers can use the controller to shoot lasers and change directions depending on which side the person puts their hands.

Simply put, the multi-sided polygon has LEDs and depth sensors embedded into each of the individual sides. It’s a clever way to approach input to say the least. It works by shining light outwards from the device which bounces back off of one’s hands and hits a sensor on that particular side. Information from the sensor is then routed through an Arduino, triggering an event.

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Photo pulled from Alan Zucconi’s website

The outer frame was laser cut at a hackerspace in London. It has the classic burnt edges produced by such a machine, which adds a nice rustic look to the device. The main circuit is based off an Arduino board that sits below the dodecehedron. Wires run up into the container above. Technical specifications for the controller are as follows:

  • Distance sensors. The distance sensor has been implemented using two IR emitters and an IR photodiode. When an object like a hand is approaching the emitters, it reflects some of their light back into the photodiode. This enables for a close-range distance detection (up to 5 centimetres). Kalman filtering is used to reduce sensor noise and inaccuracies. Each face can be calibrated individually to match the background IR noise of its environment.
  • Lights. The RGB LED pights used in this project are Adafruit Neopixels.
  • Microcontroller. DodecaLEDron runs on an Arduino Mega, which has enough analog and digital inputs for all the faces of the controller.
  • Case. The external case of the controller is made out of wood (3mm MDF). It has been designed using Sketckup and lasercut at the London Hackspace. Every face exposes the circuitry, giving a steampunk finish to the controller.

The software demo paired with the DodecaLEDron is called Nimbatus and was developed by Swiss Indie game developer Micha Stettler. It was made with the Unity game engine. As the dedicated controller’s project page states, “the player controls a spaceship, interacting with the faces of the DodecaLEDron. This allows [for a] seamless way to power both engines and weapon with fluid and reliable hand gestures.” Gameplay is reminiscent of the classic Atari game ‘Asteroids’ where a similar otherworldy craft beams lasers at oncoming objects before they cause damage to the vehicle. In addition, the device itself almost resembles a magic crystal ball; especially when players wave their hands around it like high-tech wizards.

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Photo pulled from Alan Zucconi’s website

The DodecaLEDron was inspired by several other projects found online, including Pangenerator’s Dodecaudion, markcra’s dodecahedron and another project Makezine covered called the dodecahedron speaker. For more information about the custom controller, visit the project page linked at the top. Also, follow the creator on Twitter @AlanZucconi for updates on his work.