Gamers with disabilities often have to come up with their own solutions when comes to playing video games. The market for controllers specifically designed for various handicaps is simply not broad enough to support established production costs. Therefore, it is usually left to individuals to create controllers or adapters for their particular needs on their own.
Mechatronics engineer Julio Vazquez is just such a person. While Julio does not have a disability, his friend Rami Wehbe lost the use of his right hand due to a stroke. Rami wanted a way to play Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch, so Vazquez went to work designing a solution for his friend.
"The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has a complex control scheme, and the shape of the included Joy-Con grip doesn't help at all."
No matter what you do, the design of the JoyCons for the Switch are meant to be used with two hands. If they are attached to the screen, they are too far apart for one hand to reach. When connected to the JoyCon Grip (pictured above), trying to use both controllers with one hand is awkward at best. Even when using a custom adapter with both units fused together side by side (below) leaves only the thumb free to control the sticks and buttons making most complex games nearly unplayable.
Julio had to find a solution that was more comfortable and practical to use. After “almost a week of research and lots of failed prototypes,” he happened upon a relatively straightforward solution. He created an adapter which is nothing more than a bracket for the JoyCons. It is a 3D-printed joint that allows the controllers to be connected at a 90-degree angle (video below).
The result is a device where the thumb operates the left JoyCon, while the other four fingers handle the right. It looks a bit tricky at first, but for someone used to only using one hand for everything, it probably doesn’t take long to adjust to the controller.
After testing the final design for a week, Rami told Julio that he had a hard time reaching all the buttons. After some quick adjustments, Vasquez whipped up a second version of the device that brings the JoyCons closer together. I’m sure Rami is kicking butt in Zelda now.
"I'm happy for being alive in 2017," he says in a thank you video.
Julio has no plans to patent the adapter. In fact, he has licensed it under Creative Commons so that anyone else who might need a one-handed Switch controller can benefit from his design. What a great friend.
The files for printing both versions the adapter can be downloaded from Thingiverse. Vasquez says, “If you are having issues with the size of V1, please try the second version.” Printing the device takes about an hour and a half.