How much should a video game controller mimic real-world motion? Is direct 1-1 action like a punch or swipe better than symbolic interactions like a button press? Should games be able to give you real, physical feedback? Forget about all those questions for a minute, because somebody is making game controllers out of Ikea products. Open Controllers is a project developed by artist Marc Dubois, with help from others at the ECAL university of art and design in Switzerland, that pairs the sensors of your average smartphone with the utilitarian convenience of cheap home goods.
With a pair of bowls and some wooden trivets, you can make a wooden ball that recognizes when it's rolling through the phone's gyroscope — players can roll a similar ball on the screen, or use it for something more abstract, like rotating platforms. By putting a phone inside a lamp's detached shade, you can use its camera to detect the direction of light when you swivel the head of that lamp, then port that information into a puzzle game. Or you can just stuff your phone in a box.
They obviously all have limitations. You're not going to be playing Call of Duty with salad bowls, and all Dubois' controllers currently work with a specially developed demo called Collidem. Besides being a proof of concept for cheap DIY controllers, though, the project creates the kind of artificial barriers that can lead to interesting game design. It's not as though nobody has thought to use light as a mechanic, for example, but a game based entirely on spotlight placement wouldn't seem nearly as interesting if the controller didn't fit its purpose so perfectly. While Dubois' project isn't a commercial one, he shows clearly how you could make your own version of the hardware. From there, it's a matter of finding or developing a compatible game like Collidem.