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The Wii AK-47 Controller Mod

Take an icon of the Soviet Union (the AK-47) and a Shemagh (as currently used by the military in the desert). Some of the least likely things to go with a Wii, right?

What This Is

Nintendo's Wii, in case you didn't know, is a video game system with motion sensitive controls. The controls consist of a nunchuck (handheld unit with a thumb-joystick) and the wiimote (which is a wand-like controller used to point at the screen. Both are button-laden and motion sensitive.

I took a plastic AK-47 and removed the insides, then repackaged and rewired as necessary to move the wiimote IR-sensor into the muzzle and wire up the trigger with a switch. Also, the nunchuck was mounted like a vertical grip so it can be easily grasped and used.

This allows the AK to function much like the Wii Zapper, in that gun-like aiming can be done and the motion sensing is still intact. However, unlike the zapper, the AK-47 is much much funnier.

After all, the Soviet Union and contemporary desert conflict are probably some of the least likely things to be mated to the otherwise wholesome and popular Wii (unless somebody out there has made a toilet-plunger mod, or something.)

For the record, to me the AK-47 says "Soviet Union" and a Shemagh says "Article of clothing, not political statement". They both have obtained other connotations, though. But I don't have anything to say about that end of things.

Why Bother?

I made this partly to see if it would offer improved control in games. I suppose it does offer some amount of improved control, but mostly it's just for fun.

I mainly made this just for the experience of using an AK rifle butt to smack the choirists singing out of tune in Rayman Raving Rabbids.

Actually, that's pretty much the only reason I made it.

(Normally you'd point at the rabbid in question with the wiimote, and then "slap" them by waving the nunchuck. Now you can point the AK at them, and swing the AK around to rifle-butt them instead.)

Design Details

Fundamentally we are doing two electrical things - the rest is cosmetic:

1: we are extending out some wires attached to the contacts for the "B" button (and I would recommend also the "A") - these will attach to switches to be used as triggers.

2: the IR camera on the front of the wiimote will be removed and re-mounted remotely. So, we'll need a lot of suitably thin cables and the ability to solder small connections.

The cosmetic parts consist of mounting the nunchuk somewhere comfortable, and mounting the other parts into and onto a body or shell. I used a plastic, mostly hollow AK-47. There's no reason you couldn't use something else; perhaps even a glove of some sort.

Construction Details

First, the wiimote needs to be disassembled - you will need a special Nintendo screwdriver for this. One source for them is a place like DealExtreme.

The black component at the front is the IR sensor/camera. It needs to be removed, so de-solder it carefully. Save the black plastic in front of the sensor. It helps shield the camera from ambient light and should be replaced in front of the camera wherever you decide to mount it.

After removal, wires should be carefully soldered to the camera, and the other ends soldered to the matching holes on the wiimote circuitboard.

Afterwards would be a good time to make sure the wiimote still works. If not, make sure you have no solder bridges or wiring errors.

The other thing that needs doing is to locate the contacts for the "A" and "B" buttons and attach small, thin wires to them so that they can be attached to remote switches, which will serve as triggers.

The image shows the "B" button's wiring. The "A" button is on the opposite side of the wiimote and should also be done.

If you use suitably thin wire (like wire-wrap wire) the wire should be flush enough so that it doesn't interfere with the button operation, allowing the A and B buttons on the wiimote to continue to function normally.

This would be a good time to fire the Wii up again and make sure the controller still works. The "A" and "B" buttons should be triggered by touching their respective wires together momentarily.

Now all that's left is to attach some switches to the A and B button wires, and fit those switches and controller guts (or the entire controller, if there is room) into whatever you want.

Packing it into the AK shell

Here are some pictures showing how I did the final assembly for my Wii AK-47.

The IR camera (with the black plastic IR shield replaced in front of the camera) went onto the muzzle. The camera was too large to fit inside the AK's actual muzzle opening, so I made a small enclosure to hold it securely.

The switch for the main trigger gets attached to the wiimote "B" button. A smaller, secondary trigger switch was installed for the less-used "A" button.

The nunchuck was left intact, but I made a moulded holder for it out of sintra (PVC foam board). The board was cut to shape and heated with a heat gun until soft, then moulded around the nunchuk. After the sharp edges were trimmed, a spot of hot glue holds it snug, and the whole thing was hot-glued to the AK's handguard.

This allows the nunchuk to be held like a vertical grip, isn't TOO much of an eyesore, and keeps the nunchuk 100% functional.

Some Technical Issues / Lessons Learned

A number of issues came up while making and using the Wii AK-47.

  • Games are not consistent with whether they use the A button (top of the wiimote) or the B button (bottom of wiimote) as the "trigger". For example, Rayman Raving Rabbids likes to use the "A" button a lot but Link's Crossbow Training uses the "B" button. This means that if you want flexibility, you either need two triggers (one for A and one for B) or some means of switching between the two. I made two triggers.

  • Playing on a projector or other large screen means that the wiimote's "mouse pointer" will not always line up with the sights. The pointer is not always exactly where you are actually aiming, rifle-wise. It's best to play on a normal sized TV. (There might be a way to solve this - I have experimented with adjusting the width of the sensor bar but no luck yet.)

  • UPDATE:After more testing, even on smaller screens the Wiimote is clearly not a 1-to-1 movement device. Near the middle of the screen the "pointer" may line up with the rifle sights, but the closer you get to the sides and edges of the screen, the less the pointer is lined up with the sights. This is a fundamental thing, it's just more noticeable when used on larger screens. Bottom line: It is impossible to have the gun "sighted in" to match up with the wiimote pointer no matter how you adjust it. Without the ability to use the rifle sights reliably, it's just a novelty because you're always stuck with shooting from the hip.

Bonus: How to Tie a Shemagh

If you have a shemagh lying around (they really are very useful pieces of clothing, suitable for both hot or cold weather) putting it on can help complete your AK's look in a campy way.

Even if you're not going to use it with your Wii AK-47, it can still be useful to know how to tie one:


Here is some footage of the Wii AK-47 in use. The video also includes "How to Tie a Shemagh".

And while on the subject of toy guns, you may want to take a quick look at How to Make Sonic Grenades!

Hey, while you're reading about video game-related projects, why don't you take a look at the Real-life version of the HALO multiplayer skull from Oddball?

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