On Sunday, June 18, the Titan, an underwater vessel that’s designed to explore the wreckage of the Titanic, lost contact with the ship it was launched from and has since gone missing.
As of June 20, the missing vessel operated by the private company OceanGate has yet to be found.
Soon after news of the missing vessel spread, several viral tweets seen millions of times claimed that the submarine is operated with a video game controller.
THE QUESTION Is Titan, the missing Titanic exploration vessel, piloted with a video game controller?
WHAT WE FOUND Many of the viral tweets share similar images of Stockton Rush, the founder and CEO of OceanGate, holding a video game controller while inside the Titan.
Those are screenshots from a CBS Sunday Morning segment in which Rush confirmed the ship is operated by a video game controller.
On Nov. 27, 2022, CBS News published an article and video in which CBS journalist David Pogue went on an expedition with the vessel, named Titan.
He was given an on-camera tour of the vessel by Rush. CBS also posted the same video to its YouTube channel.
“We run the whole thing with this game controller,” Rush told Pogue about three and a half minutes into the video.
Rush then showed off the game controller, which appeared to be modified to have large joysticks, to the camera.
The controller appears to be this wireless Logitech F710 controller — with the aforementioned modified joysticks — designed to be used for video games played on a personal computer.
New versions of the controller are sold for about $50 on Amazon. There are photos both on OceanGate’s website and social media which feature the controller.
A photo OceanGate posted to its Twitter account clearly shows someone operating the sub using a gaming controller — the same controller seen in the CBS clip.
Two other photos in the galleries on OceanGate’s website show the controller inside of the Titan.
Although the photo isn’t on OceanGate’s website, OceanGate’s site does link to a blog post by Onshape, a company that produces engineering design tools used in Titan’s construction,
that includes a photo in which someone appears to be actively piloting Titan with the video game controller.
Onshape also says Titan uses a video game controller for navigation, allowing crew members to be able to take turns piloting without any knowledge of traditional submarine gauges and instrumentation.
The Titan uses “off-the-shelf components” to make the vessel “simple to operate and replace parts in the field,” OceanGate’s website says.
The controller doesn’t make the vessel go up and down — it just navigates it from side-to-side.
The Titan is a kind of submersible vessel that uses flotation devices to rise and fall while within the water.
So if the controller malfunctioned, it would not prevent the Titan from returning to the surface.
Titan isn’t the first underwater vessel to make use of video game controllers.
The World Economic Forum reported in 2018 that the U.S. Navy was experimenting with using Xbox controllers to operate digital periscopes.