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UC Student Designs One-Handed Game Controller For People With Disabilities

Adam Zust.jpeg
Andrew Higley
/
University of Cincinnati

Stroke patients and others with limited hand usage could benefit from Adam Zust's device.

For Adam Zust, life took a turn he didn’t expect. The 28-year-old had a stroke when he was just 17 and a senior at St. Xavier High School.

It sidelined him from rugby and Zust couldn’t continue with something he had come to love since age 6 - video games.

He remembers playing Keen. Then his brother got a GameCube. That was followed by Xbox 360.

“And that’s when my fandom for video games came even more. And then I met people at my old high school who also loved video games as much as me and we started our own club,” he says.

The stroke caused him to lose use of his right side, essentially ending his gaming as he knew it. But he had an idea: a one-handed game controller.

While a third-year student at the University of Cincinnati, he was talking to an entrepreneur. “She said, you know, 'You should bring your idea to this teacher and he will tell you whether you should go along with that or not.' And so I did that and he said that would be amazing.”

Zust’s company, Kodiak Designs, was born.

Two-handed game controllers typically have four buttons on the right side and a directional pad on the left and two small thumb-controlled joysticks on either side. The index fingers operate a pair of trigger buttons on each side of the top of the controller. This is the way his one-handed controller works:

“Each of your four fingers operates two controllers or two buttons," he says. "And your thumb can operate one motion controller and one deep pad or the pad that goes up, down, left, right and all that stuff.”

He's still in the perfecting mode - 26 designs later, he's almost ready for distribution. Zust says what helped is the UC Venture Lab pre-accelerator, assisting him in time management, better focus and understanding the needs of potential customers.

Zust already has already gotten positive feedback. (You can get in touch with him by emailing zustadam@gmail.com.)

He presented at the 1819 Innovation Hub in front of a room full of potential investors and is in touch with more than a dozen of them. Another working prototype is due out in September.

In 2019, the global gaming controller market was valued at $431 million, according to Research and Markets. It's projected to grow to $646 million by 2027.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.