After the Titan drama, many laughed at the Logitech controller used to control the submarine. But is it really so stupid? Not really.
How do you imagine the control panel of a submarine? Certainly with joysticks, levers, dozens of buttons and small dials everywhere. Yet OceanGate’s Titan submarine, tragically lost during an expedition to the Titanic’s wreckage, had none of that. Instead, touch screens and above all a Logitech F710 controller that cost 30 dollars.
This wireless controller dating from 2010 was the laughingstock of social networks. And for good reason, it has all the look of the controller ” bis » that you may have at home and that you reserve for guests. The ugly controller, with somewhat soft buttons and unpleasant handles in the hand. But is it so ridiculous?
For a device that moves in a three-dimensional ecosystem, a control based on one or two sticks makes sense and what works in our video games also works in reality. Admittedly, the variations are more or less sophisticated, but the principle remains the same: two handles, one or two sticks and buttons. This is also the format naturally taken by the remote controls of many drones, including those controlled by the army.
Joysticks used by the military
Nintendo 64? No, tank controller:
The controller of US Army’s M-SHORAD / The fire controller of Challenger 2 pic.twitter.com/J60VKTTE4B
—Sovinskiy (@_Sovinskiy) February 16, 2023
These are certainly dedicated, custom-designed controllers, but the reuse of controllers originally designed for gaming is neither new nor exceptional. Until very recently, it was discovered that some Ukrainian soldiers were using a Steam Deck to pilot a machine gun.
In the early 2000s, when the Halo game was a hit with young American soldiers, the army had the idea of adapting its equipment to what they knew in the field. This is how robots (notably designed by iRobot, the brand of vacuum cleaners) have roamed the battlefields while being controlled by… an Xbox 360 controller.
The first versions required an adapter, but a partnership with Logitech later allowed them to standardize the use of controllers. Yes, Logitech, already. And we can thus find traces of many gaming elements in the army, such as drones controlled with a HOTAS designed for Flight Simulator.
In 2018, in a military submarine, it was the photonic mast (equivalent to the periscope) which was controlled by an Xbox controller. “A simple and inexpensive replacement» old and cumbersome commands.
In the same vein, demining robots have also adopted video game accessories. iRobot, for example, now uses Logitech joysticks (still) to control certain professional robots, all remotely with first-person vision thanks to an Oculus Rift VR headset.
The military are obviously not the only ones to manipulate robots using a simple joystick. In the medical world too, when it comes to navigating the human body, nothing beats a good pad with two joysticks. At Reston Hospital Center, doctors perform their endoscopies with precision using a robot designed by The Monarch. In order to reach the lungs and detect cancers (by going to get a sample), the hose is directed with a handle that is reminiscent of something…
In another genre,Seoul National University College of Medicineused Wii controllers mounted on a fixture on some patients’ foreheads to diagnose ocular torticollis.
A perfectly normal controller
If some can thus put their life in the hands of an operator equipped with a controller for the general public, whether on a battlefield or a hospital, why not in a submarine gone to explore the bottom of the oceans? If the F710 visually shows the weight of the years, it is nonetheless ergonomic enough to move an object in a three-dimensional environment.
As for the fact that it only costs 30 dollars, it is ultimately not the question. One of the controllers most popular with gamers is none other than the Xbox 360, which can be found between 20 and 30 euros on Amazon at the moment…
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