The lowly Xbox 360 controller: it is more than a decade old, no longer the primary Xbox gamepad, and it also happens to be the US Navy’s top choice for controlling its most advanced submarines. Not the entire submarine, mind, but rather its various periscopes that exist as a pair of giant masts. High-res cameras are fitted to these periscopes, and the feed appears on large flat-screen displays within the sub.
According to Military.com, the old controls used for the submarines’ periscopes were clunky and difficult to use. The military asked junior officers and sailors about ways they could make improvements, and the feedback coupled with work alongside Lockheed Martin resulted in the Xbox 360 controller being utilized.
There are some immediate advantages to using the Xbox 360 controller, the most obvious one being that many young sailors and junior officers grew up playing games with these controllers, making them immediately familiar with them. As well, these controllers already exist, and leveraging them for the subs will help the US Navy keep costs down (versus developing a new proprietary controller).
The Navy and Lockheed Martin haven’t done anything special to modify the controllers; they’re the same one that gamers use with the aged console. During research, the entities found that sailors were able to figure out how to use the controller to operate the equipment within minutes versus the hours it takes using other joysticks.
Should something happen to one of the controllers used on these submarines, a spare model can easily be swapped in to substitute; in fact, in a worst-case scenario, officials could go to just about any electronics or game store and buy an Xbox 360 controller. Such benefits have ultimately given Microsoft’s controller preference, and it’ll soon be found in some of the Navy’s best submarines.