In November 2001, the original Xbox video game console was released by Microsoft Corp. after two years of development. As part of its quality control that year, Microsoft deployed a PXI-based end-of-line functional test system for the Xbox controller using the LabVIEW graphical development environment and PXI modular instruments from National Instruments.
The system tested device communication and monitored data packets at the bit level to verify that all controller-functional messages were within specification. The system also monitored signals at the chip level to analyze the electrical signals for parameters such as rise and fall times, minimum and maximum voltage levels, and current draw.
In May 2005, Microsoft announced its latest innovation for digital entertainment and gaming, the Xbox 360, along with a new line of Xbox 360 wired and wireless controllers. The Xbox 360 wired controllers use a versatile, low-cost USB interface to communicate to the main game console. With the USB interface, the system easily accepts additional peripherals such as dance pads and steering wheels.
The Xbox 360 controller-functional test system needed to perform tests similar to those of the original Xbox controller test system, but demanded higher-performance signal capture to qualify the signal integrity of the new controller and ensure a high-quality user experience. Once again, Microsoft turned to National Instruments for the latest modular instruments, which met the increased functional test requirements and would let Microsoft develop a comprehensive, low-cost automated test system based on Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft SQL Server.
The end-of-line test system was built in Microsoft’s Xbox 360 controller design validation lab and deployed to their production line. National Instruments’ products used included LabVIEW and PXI-5124, PXI-4472 and PXI-6509 digitizers.
“Using LabVIEW, we created more than 100 tests, implemented Ethernet communication, developed programmatic interaction with ActiveX controls and incorporated a data storage interface to our Microsoft SQL Server database,” says D.J. Mathias, development test engineer Lead, Xbox accessories group.
LabVIEW ran multiple tests in parallel to maximize test coverage during the given production cycle time. Microsoft connected the LabVIEW Database Connectivity Toolkit to its SQL Server database to store every unit under test (UUT) parameter. LabVIEW also let Microsoft communicate to the USB and wireless controllers through custom interfaces.
As for the digitizers, the PXI-5124’s high-resolution input and high-speed sampling rate made it crucial to the success of the end-of-line functional test system. The digitizer can acquire test signals with 12 bits of resolution at data rates up to 200 million samples per second, enabling it to reliably capture, monitor, analyze and verify the signal integrity of the USB communication between the controller and the Xbox 360 console.
“Functional test is a key component to any production line,” says Mathias. “The challenge in developing a production line functional tester is to package as many parallel test scenarios as possible within the given production cycle time. With the new functional test system for the Xbox 360 controller, we implemented a test strategy that resulted in a 100 percent increase in our test throughput per test station.”
As each Xbox 360 controller rolls off the production line, each completed test sends more than 110 data parameters to the dedicated SQL Server for post-test analysis to implement future production line and device enhancements.
For more information on PXI modular instruments, call 888-280-7645 or visit www.ni.com.