Reports confirm that missing submersible vessel used for touring the Titanic wreckage was navigated by a simple gaming controller. Five people are onboard with just over 90 hours of oxygen left for their survival. The search for the vessel is ongoing.
This was met with surprise to many, however it has become quite common to use the integration of gaming controllers into real-life vehicles, including military applications, has been a widespread practice for over a decade.
In 2008, Xbox 360 controllers were featured in a British Army recruitment advertisement, demonstrating their use in operating unmanned aerial vehicles. Similarly, these controllers were utilized to operate explosive ordnance disposal robots in Afghanistan in 2011.
Underwater tour at $250,000 per passenger
The vessel, carrying five individuals who paid US $250,000 each for the underwater tour, utilized a video game controller for navigation. Last year the company organising the tour, OceanGate Expeditions, the private company organizing the tour, highlighted the use of a video game controller to pilot the vessel during a tv documentary. At that time, the information left journalist David Pogue bewildered, as he referred to the submerisible’s construction as “a blend of ingenuity reminiscent of MacGyver.”
The U.S. Navy’s USS Colorado became the first submarine to employ Xbox 360 controllers to operate periscopes in 2017. Furthermore, Israel Aerospace Industries incorporated Xbox controllers into its Carmel battle tank model in 2020.
The reasoning behind this adoption is because younger recruits are usually very familiar with video game controllers, user interfaces and ergonomics. Since Microsoft owns the Xbox brand, its controllers are compatible with various computer operating systems, such as Windows. Consequently, military sources worldwide highlight the advantage of leveraging the existing training and familiarity that younger individuals possess through their experience with video games.
Logitech G-F710 relies on bluetooth
What stands out from the management of the Titanic exploration vessel is the use of a specific type of gaming controller identified as the Logitech G-F710 released in 2011. Logitech is renowned for producing high-quality video game accessories. Notably, the concerning aspect of this controller is its wireless functionality, relying on a Bluetooth connection. In contrast, all the previously mentioned military applications used wired controllers, eliminating the risk of disconnection or radio transmission issues.
While it is still unclear what led to the vessel’s disappearance, it would be premature to attribute blame to any specific component. In footage showcasing tours conducted by OceanGate’s CEO Stockton Rush, the Logitech G-F710 controller appears to have modified joysticks. However, it is evident that the controller operates wirelessly, as Rush casually tosses the gaming controller around the vessel.
For example, customer reviews of the Logitech G-F710 controller, priced at $29.99, are mixed on Amazon. While the controller generally functions well, a few reviews raise concerns about its wireless nature leading to occasional disconnection issues.
Use of gaming control an operational risk
Operational risk is the risk of losses caused. The use of the gaming controller to navigate the submersial vessel appears to be a flawed and failed process.
What sort of precautions were taken to conduct operational risk assessments?
Physical events and accidents such as this are among the factors that trigger operational risk. Questions are being asked as to what sort of operational risk assessments were even conducted by insurers of the vessel. Inadequate and failed processes will impact broadly the reputation and future of any business that failed to manage this obvious case of operational risk.
OceanGate cautioned on safety issues
Seattle-based OceanGate Expeditions, the company behind the missing submersible vessel has been cautioned about potential safety issues a number of times over the years. The company has also been warned that its operational and logistics choices have been placing passengers at extreme risk.
As the search for the Titan continues, these revelations shed light on the prior concerns raised about the submersible’s development and the differing perspectives surrounding its safety measures, an experimental adventure at its best.