Joystick / Gamepad Module

The small input modules which you can place left and right of the keyboard practically invite to add a joystick and 4 buttons / dpad on each side, similar to the switch controllers. I would like to use it for controlling camera gimbals or drones, but this would also be appealing for general gaming.

The obvious problem being the height of the joystick. The GPD Laptops seem to solve this by just providing a higher chassis and sinking the joysticks down over the complete height. We don’t have that luxury. According to the other threads we only have 3.7 mm space to work with.

Se we would need to get creative:

  1. Find an actual joystick that is flat enough - unlikely, as normal joysticks rotate above the sensor unit which is always mounted directly below it, resulting in a very vertical structure
  2. Use a touchpad and add circular bounds / engrave markings so you can feel the center
  3. Invent a whole new input device:
    Suggestion 3.1:
    A flat metal disk moves over a flat surface, it is kept at the surface through being slightly magnetic. In 3 or 4 directions very low profile springs are attached to it and the device edge to create the self-centering effect common in joysticks. The position of the disk is measured with hall sensors / lidar on the edge / a touchpad below / ? .

This sort of goes down to the question - "What does a joystick make a joystick?" - and if we ignore that the answer might be a stick that points upwards and moves angular around its base in 2 axis - "How can we get the joystick feeling in a flat 2D position movement?". And I think the biggest feature of a joystick is its self centering mechanism, usually done with springs in the base. So we should retain that self centering capability and if we are not able to, at least provide a feelable reference to the center.

  1. Use a Thinkpad Trackpoint - probably the easiest, as you can just buy something like this and stuff it into the input module. (aliexpress doesn’t tell me the height, but it seems realistic)

So do you have experiences on how good touchpads and trackpoints work when abusing them for joystick purposes like simulator flying? Or do you know where to get the ultimate flat joystick?

Option 5: You have joystick bases without the stick. The stick goes inside the expansion bay and you put them in place to play when the screen is open, and remove them back to the expansion bay when done…

Downside, if you forget and close the screen without removing them, the screen is toast.

Seriously though, I was very impressed initially by the design of the GPD laptop that included the joysticks, but after a while I realized I just like the small 10" factor together with the Oculink connectivity. But I would prefer a slimmer laptop without the joysticks and just carry a couple of gamepads. There are small portable gamepads, for example, and it will always be more comfortable and practical that having it on the laptop, specially a 16" laptop.

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Why not a 3DS circle pad? I’d have to double check the height but it’s designed to be very slim.


I can see this for the Framework 16, on the sides.
Left and right of the keyboard, instead of on top on it.

Do you think, this would be too heavy?

I can see this with a stand, that tilts the device up.
Maybe with a fan integrated.


Where do you prefer it to be placed on the 13 inch - just replacing the keyboard and touchpad?

Why not a 3DS circle pad? I’d have to double check the height but it’s designed to be very slim.

I love that! Thanks for reminding me of their existence and bringing back the good memories of flying inside the Volcano in Pilotwings Resort 3DS.

After digging around for replacement parts with measurements, i found this one which states to have a height of 5mm. But this does not include the Thumb Cap.
So it probably won’t fit out of the box. But when taking it apart I don’t see it as unrealistic. There are definitely some unnecessary plastic parts.

Ifixit actually has a guide on the circle pad, so you can see how the Thumb Cap overlaps the chassis both on the top and bottom side. Seems like some overhead that could be reduced.

It would also be interesting to know how they measure the position. Can you find any site that actually took the sensor unit apart?

Option 6: 3DS Circle Pad is my new favorite

If we make it fit in Option 5 style, it won’t be as hazardous to the display as a normal, pointy joysticks and the flat Thumb Cap would be easier to stow away.

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Where do you prefer it to be placed on the 13 inch - just replacing the keyboard and touchpad?

Probably doesn’t make sense space wise and as @Name2 pointed out it might be better to just buy a controller. For the 13 inch you also have to redesign the complete metal input cover plate for any change. So input modularity is not really a viable thing there. But when someone brings out a Trackpoint Keyboard, you could maybe abuse that as an joystick.

This here is just a fun way to use the Input Modules on the 16 inch.

It won’t be as comfortable as my steam deck, but I’m interested in this. I think there could also be room for success utilizing Valve’s touchpad joystick tech.

I think there could also be room for success utilizing Valve’s touchpad joystick tech.

Uuh, so there are actually people using a touchpad as joystick. Interesting.

So on the Steam Controller there is no engraving to show you the center, but the whole touchpad disk seems to be concave with the center being the lowest point.

Both pads provide haptic feedback and can be clicked in. The left pad also features a D-pad overlay, although it doesn’t feel like there are any additional buttons for the cardinal directions.

There is haptic feedback mentioned. How does this apply? Are there motors tilting the pad against your movement to create resistance?

The haptic feedback is those little “thumps” you feel on the touchpad while using Joystick Move – where you can somehow “feel” the joystick. It’s the little bump you get when you pass the Soft Pull Point – a tactile notice that you activated your binding. It’s the clicks when you are using a pad in Scroll Wheel mode. It provides so more information that turning off Haptics for several of the Input Styles makes the controller feel lifeless, in a way.

So there is a haptic feedback system Valve implemented that seems to be a significant improvement for some people. As I understand it the haptic feedback gives pulses for passing a step, sort of like a scrollwheel gives haptic feedback mechanically. So you know the center location by the concave form and know your distance by counting feedback pulses?

I am still not sure - is the haptic feedback directional or just a undirected bump?

ifixit suggests, it is one of these touchpads

I made a screenshot of the 16 with the whole bottom row removed

And here once with the bottom row on:

At which position would you see that?
At both sides?
Or in the middle :slight_smile:

If you are asking about or suggesting placing joystick / gamepad modules in the small bottom left and right panels, those aren’t designed to be active. They just serve to help lock in the other panels. Looks like they would have limited internal space due to the tracks they side into.

LTT Framework 16 video (@9min)

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I had the top row, left and right of the keyboard in mind. The same location where the LED Matrix modules go.

I’ve spent 6 months on this idea. I am 90% done, it’s testing on the final target microcontroller and last case pieces. I guess it’s a race now. Good luck with HID descriptors and USB firmware.


@Wiktor_Tomanek I think your implementation is probably best, I think putting it near the keyboard, would be asking for trouble, with how big the sticks need to be, the buttons, what about L and R triggers, etc, but can you support the entire laptop well, with an extension like that?

I think it’s an interesting idea, and I have no leg in the game, I carry my steam deck around with me everywhere, so even if I were to game on my framework, I’ll probably just use my stemadeck, but that has its own issues such as comparative size.

I hope these projects provide success and that you guys have fun with it.

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@PhoenixLandPirate you are not holding the laptop by those joystick modules. I’ve made them strong enough, so they won’t break if you do so, but it’s very uncomfortable.
The idea is that laptop lays on your palms and your fingers wrap around joysticks. This is very natural and comfortable.

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