Led by Nate Tilton with Chris and Josh.

Most mainstream gaming controllers require a lot of manual dexterity and the use of opposable thumbs.

Create an accessible, affordable, open-source gaming controller for people without the fine motor skills to use a typical one.

Prototype 1 increases the size of the controller so that it is easier to push on the joystick and the buttons.

Prototoype 2 features a foot pedal for firing and larger buttons for the entire hand to push.

Team Thumbless aims to make gaming more accessible and more hackable.

Most, if not all mainstream gaming controllers assume and require the use of opposable thumbs and a lot of manual dexterity. Unfortunately, accessible versions of controllers are not just extremely cost-prohibitive but require the purchase of additional connective equipment.

The goal for ” Team Thumbless” was to make an accessible and affordable controller using Arduinos, open-source software and low-cost everyday supplies. The simplest version would be able to run games like Galaga, then level up to more sophistication.

Early Prototypes

Chris’s model allowed people with low strength to push buttons with their fists.

Nate’s model was a bit more multifaceted – one side allowed you to use gravity to press buttons on the bottom of a controller (though the mechanics of this have to be worked out), while another side sat on your stomach/lap, and you’d press it with your (non-thumb) fingers. 

Josh had found an employee at Valve and made a controller out of a personal weight/scale. It would be a device that translates body movement (Hand/foot/butt) into directional input (left/right/forward/back/rotate clock/anti-clockwise) in the game. You sit on it and move it around on different axes. In his research on Disabled Gamers, he found that there was also a controller called StinkyPad, which you controlled with your foot — but it operated similarly to the Valve person’s controller. He also wanted to allow folks to use their hand.


In their next iteration, the team came up with a model that used the front of a cardboard binder with a controller kit from Amazon. This controller kit includes blue and red buttons, joystick & wires – so they did not need to use Arduino.

Raspberry Pi (competing company) could potentially be connected for access to an emulator (and perhaps maybe customizable controls).

Next Steps: The team hoped they can move beyond a kit, have bigger buttons and perhaps make modifications to the joystick as a joystick itself requires some amount of energy to operate.

Prototype 1 of the adaptive game controller


The difference in Prototype 2 is that it does not have a joystick. It only has buttons and in this case it has buttons for only left and right movement.

A foot pedal can be added to either model and can be used by people that cannot use the fire button.


On Dec 4, the Team presented to a group of experts including Dr. Josh Miele (Amazon), Lucy Greco (UC Berkeley), and Drew McPherson (AbilityHacks). They suggested to take inspiration from the following two examples of accessible gaming controllers already out in the world:

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