In what may be the coolest use of a videogame accessory ever, a scientist at Brookhaven is using an Xbox controller to open a window into the nanoworld.
Engineer Ray Conley designed a one-of-a-kind machine to grow atomically precise lenses that can focus x-rays to within one billionth of one meter, revealing the nanoscale structure of materials such as electric vehicle fuel cells.
To work on the machine, Ray used to have to manually enter commands into a computer to move a crucial transport car along tracks sealed inside a vacuum chamber. This meant walking back and forth between the machine and computer, eating up time and sacrificing precision.
So he asked an assistant to help him find a joystick to drive the machine, and they ended up programming a wireless Xbox controller to do the job. It’s far more efficient and way more fun.
And they even enabled the rumble pack to let Ray know how fast the transport car is moving inside the machine.
Bonus trivia: The massive lens-building machine is nicknamed Megatron and features a Decepticon sticker on its side. During construction, an engineer mistakenly called a magnetron device “megatron,” and the name stuck.