Titan submersible: the use of a video game controllers in scientific research is not as odd as you may think

People in this article

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on items purchased through this article, but that does not affect our editorial judgement.

Though it may seem odd having a third party video game controller navigating a submersible like the Titan, those devices are not new to science and military research.

With the U.S Coast Guard confirming during a press conference yesterday evening that they presume the five passengers aboard OceanGate’s Titan submersible have died, questions now are being asked how the deep sea exploration vessel imploded at a theorised 9,000 feet. Much is now being discussed regarding the engineering of the Titan, with James Cameron himself weighing in on his concerns about the company.

Though many made jibes before the announcement of the rescue mission becoming a recovery mission about the use of a Logitech controller by OceanGate to navigate the submersible, leading to some off-colour remarks on Amazon under reviews for the third-party peripheral. However, the use of video game controllers is not uncommon in the field of scientific research and even military training.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Long beloved by video game users as the “perfect” ergonomic design and feel, the Xbox’s adaptive controller developed by Microsoft was initially designed to improve accessibility for gamers with limited mobility. However, it has also found a life outside of the gaming world, with its real-world application used as part of Microsoft’s ElectionGuard electronic voting system. The controller can also be adapted for specific purposes - including navigational systems. 

Nintendo’s revolutionary Wii Remote has also been used previously for research projects and applications for motion tracking, gesture recognition and human-computer interaction. Researchers from the Seoul National University College of Medicine have used Nintendo Wii game controllers to help diagnose ocular torticollis, a medical condition in which the head is tilted to one side to compensate for certain eye pathology.

Their most recent addition to the console landscape, the Nintendo Switch, has also seen its Joy Con controllers used in medical studies, as evidenced with a medical paper entitled “Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons’ Infrared Motion Camera Sensor for Training Manual Dexterity in People with Multiple Sclerosis: A Randomised Controlled Trial” by Madrid’s Rey Juan Carlos University.

Researchers at the institute concluded that after eight weeks of using Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training and the right-side Joy-Con controller for the Switch, combined with a conventional intervention, showed improvements in grip strength, coordination, fine and gross motor functions, executive functions, and upper limb functionality in the experimental group. However, no differences were observed when both groups were compared in the intergroup analysis.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
The logo of the Swiss computer control devices manufacturer Logitech is seen in front of the company offices, 18 January 2007 in Morges. (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)The logo of the Swiss computer control devices manufacturer Logitech is seen in front of the company offices, 18 January 2007 in Morges. (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
The logo of the Swiss computer control devices manufacturer Logitech is seen in front of the company offices, 18 January 2007 in Morges. (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

In terms of gaining experience on the battlefield, video game controllers have also been used by various militaries around the world to create an authentic, lifelike feel for environments such as in the air or under the sea. 

The ergonomics of the controllers once again were touted as the reason why entities such as the U.S military would use Xbox or PS5 controllers, but with hand-eye coordination an integral part of training, it comes as no surprise that for some remote controller missions, the humble Logitech controller (despite being a third party product) is the ideal choice if remote pilots are used to their response time while observing on a screen.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.