Bringing the SpaceOrb game controller forward with an Arduino Bridge via The Orbotron 9001
Almost ten years ago I posted abut the SpaceTec SpaceOrb 360 Controller and that was 15 years after it came out. We are now 25 years into the legend of the SpaceOrb and I will continue to tell the tale. The SpaceOrb is one of a series of innovative "Spacemice" that offer more than just two degress of input freedom. In fact, they offer SIX.
"The puck or ball of a spacemouse can be moved along X, Y and Z axis as well as being twisted rotationally on each of those axis. (Roll, Pitch and Yaw)"
Vic Putz continues to carry a torch for the SpaceOrb, as do I, except he's actually doing something about it. A decade ago I bought an Arduino and an "OrbSheild" from Vic that sat on top and provided a realtime bridge between the RS-232 Serial Port and the modern USB "HID" (Hardware Input Devices) that are used today. The goal is to move behind unsigned device drivers and create a system-agnostic solution that would present an old device in a new driver-free way.
Vic has been working on a new version called the Orbotron 9000/9001 for the last few years and it's currently sold out at his little store. It acts as an interface for the SpaceOrb 360 and comes configured for that device, but should also work with the SpaceBall 5000, SpaceBall 4000FLX, and Magellan SpaceMouse. Code and plans on are GitHub, natch.
When you plug the SpaceOrb into the Orbotron 9001 then into your PC it shows up as a Game Controller!
There's several innovative "six degrees of freedom" games out there , like the "Overload" sequel to Decent on Steam, as well as Retrovirus, and NeonXSZ, as well as open source reimplementations of Descent like DXX Rebirth (give them some love!) and Forsaken.
Modern Xinput games are trickier, but you may have success with https://www.x360ce.com by mapping the orb buttons and axes to a gamepad.
I'm still exploring this space, but I love that The Internet - with the help of the enterprising and patient - refused to let the good parts of history die, by making innovative and clean bridges between the past and the future.
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Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
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