Classic game cabinet becomes a drivable car

[Garnet Hertz], a professor and “artist in residence” at UC Irvine, built a drivable Outrun arcade cabinet for an experiment in augmented reality.

The old fiberglass and wood cabinet was hacked up and the motors, wheels, and drive train from an electric golf cart were stuffed inside. The original steering wheel and pedals were used for the controls. Although the top speed of the in-game car is about 180 mph, that was brought down to a reasonable 13 miles per hour.

The build doesn’t run on the original 68k processor. Instead, custom software is used to take real-world image data from two webcams on top of the cabinet. These images are then converted into Outrun sprites and displayed on the monitor. The software proportionally changes the speed of the in-game car, but it seems the difference between the game speed and real-life speed would be a little disconcerting. Although it’s not a real world track with the corkscrew loops of Race Drivin’, it’s still an interesting experiment in augmented reality.

Right now, we’re trying to figure out how to put this in our car. Outrun is now being reverse engineered, and the road layer code is complete. Does anyone want to take a stab at that build?

40 thoughts on “Classic game cabinet becomes a drivable car

  1. -_- just ruined a good classic arcade cabinet for something that isn’t practical.
    Don’t know what he was thinking when he was driving with REAL traffic. He has no vision of the real road and obstacles in front of him. Very dangerous!

    1. driving with real traffic, yes.. but it wasn’t a lane for vehicles that he was in (at 0:25 in the video). plus, I’m sure the vehicle that was in front of him, doing the filming likely also had a ‘spotter’ to communicate any real potential dangers.

      now for some real danger/excitement, they can mod a classic After Burner game into some kind of real flying machine (which also happens to be a classic sega coin-op machine)!

  2. Pretty cool, but they don’t really show much of what’s happening on the screen, so we get an idea of what happens when the cameras detect a bend in the road :(

    Oh and the idea at the bottom of their page about a mobile app for cyclists just has “active population control” written all over it!

    1. Some random reactions:

      1) Does his wife/girlfriend wag her finger at him if he knocks over a pedestrian? Or drive it home when the neighbors can see?

      2) Instant million points of coolness for including one of the best (IMHO) videogame tunes from that era in the video! I used to play that whole thing on my SK-1, no lie!

      3) I’m with the rest of the peanut gallery, this has night vision hacks begging to happen. Though it would be awesome to incorporate obstacles, the lack of them is kinda worrying.

    1. I guess the premise was that he rewrote the the game in a way that when bends and curves in the road are detected by the webcams mounted on top, they’re rendered the same way in the “game.” I’m not really sure if this still constitutes as augmented reality, since it’s more like augmented virtual reality….

  3. Interesting…cool theme cart although he can’t see. at 39 secs notice the upcoming intersection, then the camera pans down to the arcade screen, no intersection just straight road. Then on the open road???? OMG he s putting alot of trust in this thing! Would be cool to drive around E3 convention and show off the Sega brand.

  4. I looks like “Hertz” put himself in the driver’s seat!

    (old TV commercial: “Let Hertz put you in the drivers seat.)

    So, okay, I’ve just made another
    “empty in-joke” for the censor to cut.

    The censor says it's cool.

  5. reality augmented game play, totally awesome, I would love to see pedestrian traffic incorporated into game play as other cars, just so you know to avoid them.

  6. Am I the only one who’s not entirely convinced that the thing actually works? They didn’t ever show the screen in action save for a couple straightaways, and the guy is constantly looking around to see where he’s going.

    1. You are not alone. Looks like the system just detects the speed. The following video on their site shows this more clearly:

      I guess they did not implement the ‘road processing’ part yet.

    2. I agree with you on this. There video mostly shows how they attached an arcade cabinet to a golf cart (which I’m sure had it’s share of challenges), however you only get casual glances at the actual screen.

      You can sometimes see curves in the game’s road, however, but it’s hard to tell what real world features are triggering this, if indeed they are at all.

  7. likelihood this is will ever be practical or produce useful scientific data: none

    what’s funny is legitimate researchers are lucky to get gas money funding once a year..I guess this pricey toy is a good marketing tool though..

  8. If anyone is going to take on this build first it’s going to be Jeri Elsworth (:
    Looks like quite an interesting project. It certainly looks like a new take on the gaming simulator. Not sure how the authorities over here would take a car on the road that you can’t directly see out the front of.
    Wondering what it would feel like to have this system built into a real car and then to play grand tirismo (the orgmentation of other cars would be a nice addition. Or what about set this sort of system up on an aircraft… Not sure I would be crazy enough to fly something (although aircraft pilots never look out the window either)

  9. Oh my god!!! Iv just seen the breif video of the game play… So scary haha. I wonder if they will add in a tipping seat so it feels faster :D doesn’t stop me wanting to build one though :D

  10. Interesting, but I’m surprised it’s actually a funded research project, I expected it to be a weekend amateur project.

    One would hope that there’s also an option just to send direct camera feed to the screen so that the driver can actually drive it properly, although really that just turns it into a upscaled and uprated gokart.

    1. This is totally cool, but I agree, this should not be a funded project. The NSF has funding behind this too? Seems kinda like a waste.

  11. the poor arcade machine! what did it do to deserve that! I do hope it was broken before he started working on it. :'(

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