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Advanced Embodiment Design, Spring 2021


Game Controller for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy


Duchenne (DMD)  is a type of muscular dystrophy that affects boys starting at a young age. As DMD causes muscle loss and contraction, rapid movements, lifting and pressing buttons become more challenging over time. While adaptive controllers exist, these are rarely usable for people with Duchenne. 


Theria is a controller designed for gamers with DMD that adapts to the abilities of its users. 


Xbox adaptive controller



Gamers’ current experiences inform design requirements and drive decisions throughout the project. The interactions gamers had with controllers were categorized as negative or positive based on their personal accounts as well as their implications in fundamental psychological needs.


  • Strongest frustration gamers with DMD experienced was due to requiring caregivers’ help in setting up their gaming device.

  • The PS4 controller is ubiquitous, gamers with Duchenne feel as a part of the gamer culture when using this controller.

The design vision encapsulates the key opportunities identified in this process:

"Enhance the competence and autonomy of gamers with DMD for them to find daily stimulation and connect with online gaming platforms"

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Theria should level the playing field by creating a platform equally as inclusive for gamers with different abilities, rather than making people with DMD adapt to an existing culture that excludes them. The unibody design of Theria contrasts with the current adaptable controllers, which consist of many discrete components and both look and work differently than conventional controllers.


Theria’s look has both retro and futuristic elements, which makes it visually novel, yet familiar to the gamer.  



Semi-transparent shell lets light through, reminiscent of game consoles of the 90s. This allows the controller to still be connected to the gaming culture without imitating the current designs. The all-white look, organic curves and the soft body add futuristic elements that carry the retro design into contemporary culture. Springy soft body provides comfort for different hands & stimulates stretching of contracting hand muscles.

 As the controller offers a novel gaming experience, the potential user base for the controller extends to a wider audience. 


The controller can be used in multiple configurations to promote early engagement. Gamers can start using the controller handheld, like any other. As they lose muscle function, the controller can be used docked on a desk, like a keyboard, and lastly docked on their wheelchair.  

The flexible silicone body positions hands in an ergonomically favorable state. The springy structure applies light pressure to strecth hand muscles that are contracting due to DMD.  



Sustainability is increasingly more important for consumer electronics designed to be used in the EU. The design tackles sustainability in production, repair and recycling stages.

> Snap fit connections are prioritized over screws and adhesives to increase the ease of recycling and allows repairability without specialized tools.

> Placing the battery outside of the electronics pod decreases the use of hazardous chemicals by 60% over 10 years. The fully-digital electronics pod is estimated to have a 2-year lifetime with daily use, whereas batteries usually last 4-5 years.

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