Controlling a Robotic Arm with an Xbox 360 wireless controller

I’ve always wanted to get into robotics, and building a robotic arm is a great place to start. But what can we do with a simple robotics arm kit?

I’ve got to start somewhere, and when learning a new skill it helps to start simple. So for this project, I wanted to figure out how I could control a robotic arm using a familiar control platform. For me, that was an Xbox controller. I’ve had a USB Xbox wireless controller receiver for a PC and found a Linux driver that would allow me to interface with it on a Raspberry Pi. Then with a bit of python code, I could send serial messages to an Arduino that would control the various robot arm servos using PWM signals.

Then I assigned different buttons to control different parts of the robot arm, and the basics of my project were completed. It was fun attempting to use the robot arm to stack blocks and move other objects. But it was a bit challenging to do, as I wasn’t used to thinking about how to move an arm in terms of individual pivot points.

What could a more intuitive user interface look like. What If the claw could be moved like it were a flying object in 3D space? This lead me down the path of reverse kinematics, which is really fascinating, but was an advanced topic I just started to scratch the surface of. It’s amazing what we learn when we explore new technologies.