The submersible vessel carrying five people that disappeared on its 2,100-fathoms trip nearly two hours into a dive toward the Titanic was controlled by an outdated video game controller.
A video game controller is not that unusual of a navigation system for some craft or even things like military drone pilots, but in this case, it was a $30 Logitech PC controller. It was shown in videos about the sub before it launched with slightly modified thumbsticks, and is a Logitech G F710, currently available on Amazon as a “renewed” (refurbished) version for $30. The original has a 4.2/5 rating.
This is not a PlayStation controller as some have said, even though that’s what it most closely resembles. Rather the compatible devices for it are all Windows-based, going all the way back to Windows Vista and Windows 7. Again, there is no way to know if the controller had anything to do with the sub issues, nor should anyone be holding Logitech responsible given that, uh, “submarine control” was not promised when the controller was built. However, Stockton Rush, the CEO of OceanGate Expeditions, did say, “We run the whole thing with this game controller” before launch, indicating they made it essential to the submersible’s operation.
If you’ve ever used a video game controller, on or off-brand versions, you know that over time, they tend to degrade or can become unreliable. Looking at some reviews of this controller specifically, we can see that like all controllers this also can happen to this one:
“I bought this back in February and I’d like to say I game a decent amount on the daily on my pc. If, that’s also you then I highly recommend you shop around first. The buttons are already dying on me. It’s been a struggle.”
This is also an… old controller. I’m not precisely sure when it was first made, but some of these reviews (and there are loads of positive ones!) are from 2012 (Update: The controller was first released in 2010). It’s just a very old controller at this point, though it definitely still works today, as some recent reviews are indeed from this year. But like all controllers, it has the potential to degrade or malfunction in time.
Again, I don’t think any blame should be cast at Logitech, whether or not the controller was at fault. There are a million things that could go wrong with a submersible like that, where passengers were crammed in a tiny metal tube that apparently didn’t even have actual seats. We’ll have to wait and see if it’s ever found, and if so, if the cause of the accident can ever be determined.
I’ve reached out to Logitech to see if they have a comment on the situation, and will update if I hear back.
Update: Logitech has no comment.