The Fisher-Price Toy Controller Now Actually Works, Thanks to Clever Hack

It's already designed for kid-sized hands, so you just need to add Bluetooth and some code.

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Every parent excitedly awaits the day when they can share their interests with their child, even gamers. But when that day arrives and your five-year-old is reaching for an expensive wireless controller with peanut butter-covered fingers, you can either let the idea of a pint-sized player two die, or turn a Fisher-Price toddler toy into a kid-friendly game pad.

The YouTube channel Retrograde Scene went for the latter route, and after finding a Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Game & Learn Controller for cheap from a local thrift store (and giving it a much-needed cleaning), they set about upgrading its guts so that instead of just triggering sound effects, lights, and music, its buttons actually worked as real game inputs.

Hacking Bluetooth into a Fisher Price Controller

Thankfully, the toy’s PCB board lent itself well to electronic upgrades, with pre-existing solder-friendly test points that could be wired up to the inexpensive FireBeetle: an ESP32-based microcontroller that would also bring Bluetooth and wifi into the mix.

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Accommodating the controller’s upgraded guts required the inside to be cleared out to make room for new components, including the toy’s battery box. Instead, the AAA batteries that used to fit inside it have been replaced with a more convenient rechargeable battery and a new USB-C port.

On the software side of things, some of the heavy lifting had already been done, with an existing Bluetooth gamepad library for the ESP32, but Retrograde Scene went above and beyond the call of duty here with a custom iOS app, allowing the button mapping on the Fisher-Price gamepad to be changed on the fly for when using it with the Nintendo Switch or an Xbox. That puts this custom creation on par with 8BitDo’s controllers, but how could anyone not choose the gamepad with a giant smiley face on it?