deep dives —

While rescuers fear for OceanGate crew, Logitech F710 PC gamepad sells out within minutes.


Stockton Rush shows David Pogue the game controller that pilots the OceanGate Titan sub during a CBS Sunday Morning segment broadcast in November 2022.

Enlarge / OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush shows David Pogue the 2010-era game controller that pilots the Titan sub during a CBS Sunday Morning segment broadcast in November 2022.

CBS Sunday Morning

On Sunday, news broke about an OceanGate Expeditions tourist submarine headed for the wreck of the Titanic that went missing with five people aboard. Soon after, details emerged about the sub’s non-standard design that did not meet regulations, including steering apparently handled by a $30 Logitech F710 wireless PC game controller from 2010.

Reuters reports that the five-person crew of the missing vessel, known as Titan, includes Hamish Harding, a British billionaire and adventure enthusiast, and OceanGate’s founder and CEO, Stockton Rush. It disappeared on Sunday while on an expedition to explore the Titanic shipwreck site after losing contact with the Polar Prince research ship, roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes after their dive began.

The submarine was last reported in the North Atlantic, approximately 900 miles east of Cape Cod, in a water body known to have a depth of about 13,000 feet. Search and rescue operations began shortly thereafter and are still underway. According to the BBC, the entire sub is bolted shut from the outside, so even if the vessel surfaces, the occupants cannot escape without outside assistance and could suffocate within the capsule.

A CBS Sunday Morning segment where correspondent David Pogue joins Titanic enthusiasts who pay to ride in OceanGate’s specially designed submersible vehicle. Originally broadcast November 27, 2022.

As the potential disaster gripped social media, details about OceanGate’s history of avoiding or complaining about safety regulations emerged. In particular, people began sharing a CBS Sunday Morning segment broadcast in November 2022 that shows reporter David Pogue visiting the Titan, which he later boarded for an expedition to the Titanic.

During the CBS clip, Rush gives Pogue a tour of the sub, noting the presence of “only one button” in the entire vessel and saying that a sub “should be like an elevator.” Pogue also mentions how many pieces of the sub seem improvised, including off-the-shelf computer displays, a lighted overhead grab bar “from Camper World,” and using construction pipes as ballast. At one point, Rush holds up a Logitech F710 Wireless controller that appears to have 3D-printed thumb-stick extensions and says, “We run the whole thing with this game controller.”

Titan sub taken from OceanGate’s Facebook page.” height=”938″ src=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/FzEiw2KaQAAmX2m-640×938.jpg” width=”640″>

Enlarge / A photo of the Logitech F710 gamepad aboard the Titan sub taken from OceanGate’s Facebook page.

OceanGate

The Logitech F710 controller, introduced in 2010, is a wireless dual-thumbstick gamepad for PCs that uses 2.4 GHz communications to a USB receiver. While its chunky design appears outdated by today’s standards, it has been in continuous production for 13 years, and it usually sells for about $29.99 on Amazon.

Shortly after news of the Logitech controller aboard the Titan spread on Tuesday morning, the Cheap Ass Gamer Twitter account, which regularly posts video game deals, posted an Amazon link to the Logitech F710 controller on Twitter, and the item quickly sold out.

The Logitech F710 wireless gamepad seen on the Logitech website.

Enlarge / The Logitech F710 wireless gamepad seen on the Logitech website.

Logitech

This is not the first time the Titan has gotten lost. On Monday, Pogue tweeted that during his report last summer about the Titan, the submersible got lost for a few hours as well (while Pogue was on the surface), although he later noted that during his trip, the sub still had contact with the surface, and in this situation, all communications contact with the sub have ceased.

While the use of a $30 PC game controller for operations does not inspire confidence in the Titan‘s construction, the exact cause of the submarine’s disappearance is currently unknown. Efforts are focused on locating the submarine and crew, after which an investigation will likely attempt to determine the cause of the incident.

Authorities, fearing for the lives of the crew aboard, have deployed multiple resources (including sonar buoys and aircraft with underwater detection capabilities) to assist in the search operation. On Monday afternoon, the US Coast Guard estimated that the Titan may have about 70 to 96 hours of oxygen left.

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