How to use a PS3 Sixaxis controller with an Android device (root only)

We’ve already showed you how to use a second Android device as a game controller, as well as how to use Wii controllers and Xbox controllers on Android. Now it’s time for the final, and the ultimate, game controller hookup: the Sony PS3 Sixaxis controller. It’s the most complicated to set up, but also the most powerful – by far. Here you get not only normal game controller keyboard emulation, but also a touch emulation system that works with essentially any game out there. Yes, that’s right, any game. Read on for the details.

It is technically possible to get a Sixaxis controller working with the same app that I used for the Xbox controller, however if you want to have the full feature set available to you there’s no substitution for the Sixaxis Controller app. To use it you need to have a rooted device, there’s no getting around that. You also need to have compatible Bluetooth systems, for which there is a compatibility checker app. To hook up the controller, you either need to use a PC and a provided tool to pair it manually, or do it directly with USB on the tablet provided you have Android 3.1+.

Once that’s set up, the basic system is a lot like the other controller setups. You enable the input method created by the app, switch to it, and the app then turns the game controller signals into keyboard button input that apps can map to or that you can map for specific apps. However, the real benefit of this app comes from the new experimental touch emulation feature. What this does is that instead of mapping a controller button to a keyboard button, you map it to part of the screen, and when pressed the app tells the OS that part of the screen was just touched.

This has several advantages, the most obvious being that it makes it possible for Sixaxis Controller to work with essentially any app – at least any app that has on-screen buttons (I doubt that playing angry birds this way would be much fun). This makes Android a very powerful gaming platform as the controller problem is solved 100% once and for all. No more waiting for developers to add support for commercial controllers, keyboard controls or button mappings – you can do all that yourself. The other advantage is that you now get full analog stick control in your games. Simply map the analog sticks to where the virtual analog sticks are on the screen, and in one quick swoop you go from having a glorified 4-way d-pad to having an actual analog stick which knows exactly where you’re turning the stick and how far. I can’t begin to tell you how much easier it was to play Super Mario 64 once I got this set up, no more falling off ledges because Mario only moved in 8 directions and always ran, never walked.

Of course this is an experimental feature and not guaranteed to work. On my Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus it worked straight away and has worked 100% ever since, guiding me to the top of the house in Mario Wings Over the Rainbow with surgical accuracy. It all depends on your device though, and possibly even your ROM, so no promises.

To me, this was the reason why I rooted, and it was very much worth it. It’s such a complete package when it comes to game controls that everyone else would have had to hang up and gone home if it hadn’t been for the root requirement. If I were Google, I would hire the developer and bake the system right into the OS. Yes, game controller support is coming in 4.0 and exists in some devices already, but the touch emulation feature brings everything to a whole new level when it comes to game compatibility.

For now though, rooted users can pick up the app for $1.50 in the Android Market.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.