Sugru: A hacker's dream material
Vivek Gohil is many things (more of that later), but passionate gamer, gaming blogger and accessibility consultant are top of his CV. Like many disabled competitive gamers, Vivek has endured huge frustrations with accessibility in gaming and the lack of controller adaptability.
“I ended up watching YouTube game walkthroughs of games I wish I could play. It was heartbreaking being reminded of my disability when gaming is meant to be inclusive.”
Despite some promising steps in the right direction with the introduction of Microsoft’s Xbox Assistive Controller (XAC) in 2018, which requires supplementary devices, there’s still a way to go. Countless disabled gamers seek inexpensive, effective ways to customise their kit and give them the competitive edge they crave.
This gave us an idea. What if we could find an engineer who could collaborate with Vivek to design the perfect game console hack? Enter Ben Heckendorn.
Ben Heckendorn aka Ben Heck is an American computer engineer, author and filmmaker who specialises in hacking popular games consoles. Famous for hosting the weekly YouTube series The Ben Heck Show on the Element 14 channel which has amassed over 57m views since 2011, Ben now hosts his own YouTube channel Ben Heck Hacks.
He’s semi-retired preferring to apply his unique prototyping skills to more altruistic projects. We approached Ben with our idea, and he was immediately into the challenge.
Vivek Gohil is a busy man. When he’s not gaming, writing his blog uncannyvivek.wordpress.com and on twitter @uncannyvivek, he works as an accessibility consultant with Microsoft, Sony and game developers to make gaming accessible and inclusive. Working with the charity Muscular Dystrophy UK allows him to spread awareness of adults living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
Vivek enjoys knowing way too much about comics, games, sci-fi and technology. When Vivek got word of the project, he was delighted to collaborate with Ben.
Sugru’s skin-friendly formula is perfect for moulding bespoke grips, creating accessible levers and generally customising objects to fit precise applications and specific shapes. It’s a soft-touch mouldable silicone that’s packed with some pretty impressive properties.
The inspiration behind this project is all down to our fixing community. Many people from the AT community use Sugru to make low-tech, low-cost adaptations to environments that can be hard to navigate. They’ve discovered loads of inventive ways to enhance the functionality of things like light switches, crutches and kitchen appliances with simple Sugru adaptations.
Ben’s problem-solving genius, combined with Vivek’s wealth of gaming expertise and utter determination, proved to be a brilliant collaboration. The fruit of their labour is a brilliantly bespoke, cost-effective console upgrade that enables Vivek to play games harder for longer. Thanks, guys. Your hack is set to be the envy of the gaming community.