Computer keyboards are a wonderful invention. Not only can I type this blog post with one, but it allows me to play a wide variety of games with a huge amount of flexibility as well. On the other hand, typing commands for flight simulators and the like isn’t quite as fun as having dedicated buttons, toggle switches, encoders. For that, you’ll need a dedicated control panel like this 68-input USB button box.
The device is intended for use with flight/space simulators, but could certainly be applied to any game or software that works with a USB input. Interface is provided by an ATmega32U4-based SparkFun Pro Micro board, which takes in this massive number of inputs with the help of 16-channel I2C GPIO expander.
The majority of the inputs are organized in a matrix that’s fed into the expansion unit, but the panel’s three rotary encoders are fed directly to the MCU, along with a few additional switches. A digital joystick is also connected via the I2C bus.
Lighting for the panel is provided by LED strips, which sit below paper labels that can be slid in and out of the unit as needed. The entire unit is housed in a 2-piece aluminum console, which comes already powder coated, giving it a rugged industrial look. It’s a beautiful build that should provide years of gaming fun!