What’s up with the Bluetooth Arcade Controller?
Once in a while we’ll get an email along the lines of, “Hey! What happened to the Bluetooth Arcade Controller? I couldn’t find it on your website or your store.” After answering a few of these recently, we decided to make a blog post about it here.
The Bluetooth Arcade Controller (BTAC) was the core component of a neat little project called “Coffee Table MAME Console” in Make Magazine vol 28, that let you build your own arcade-style control panel, and connect it to your computer or Raspberry Pi using a wireless Bluetooth connection.
The world of hobbyist-grade embedded bluetooth keyboard interfaces has advanced greatly in the past couple years since we created the BTAC kit, and it’s no-longer the best solution, in our opinion. We’d suggest trying Adafruit’s new Bluefruit EZ-Key product, which is better in every way (except for number of button inputs) than the BTAC. Plus it’s only $19.95.
They even have some great tutorial documentation on how to get started with it.
If you need more than 12 inputs, you can connect the Bluefruit module to an Arduino Mega or other microcontroller and use the RX/TX connections to send ASCII characters to the bluetooth module, which will then transmit that character as a keypress to the computer. You can even do raw USB HID keyboard or mouse reports to properly handle up to six concurrent keypresses.
Also, you can re-map the default 12 inputs using an FTDI cable and a processing sketch.
At the end of the day, we suggest going with the Bluefruit EZ-Key, as it’s cheaper, more flexible, and all-around better than our Bluetooth Arcade Controller was.