NES Light Gun Turned (Video) Synthesizer

[Russell Kramer] made our day today. We’re tremendous fans of minimalism in electronics design, dirty noise hacks, and that old NES ¬†light gun. He’s posted up a project that combines all three to make a light-gun controlled, VGA video display that makes bleepy-bloopy noises to boot. Check out the video below!

To appreciate this hack, you really need to read through the project logs in detail. Start with the VGA signal creation, for instance. The easiest way to go these days is to throw a microcontroller at the problem. But because he’s done that to death, [Russell] takes a step back thirty years and generates the sync pulses periodically with a relaxation oscillator and a binary counter IC. The rest of the build follows this aesthetic choice: everything is op amps and CMOS logic. The rainbow effect, for instance, is created from the audio signal through a three-stage, 120-degree phase-shift oscillator sent to the R, G, and B channels. Kudos!

The high-level overview is that the light intensity and position hitting the gun’s sensor is converted into a voltage that drives an audio-frequency oscillator. This audio output is then piped back into the video generator. Watching the video, it’s obvious that pointing the gun at different parts of the screen changes the pitch, but playing a given pitch is nearly impossible on this thing with all the feedback going on. [Russell] added a bit of more control into the system — when the gun’s trigger is pulled, it registers full-brightness regardless of the video input — but even so, we’d be hard-pressed to play “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.

But that’s not the point. The point is awesome, light-gun-waving noisy madness set to a responsive colorful video background. And that’s been achieved in spades!

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Nintendo light gun retrofit lets it play color-based games

This Nintendo light gun, aka Zapper, looks like a stock device. But a peek inside shows that the circuit board has been replaced. [CNLohr] added USB functionality and a few extra sensors that let him write his own games for that use the classic controller.

After cracking open the case he measured the shape of the circuit board so that he could recreate it exactly. This let him design his own board that would drop right into the same plastic support pieces as the original. His circuit uses an ATmega8u2 to provide a USB connection and read the attached sensors. One interesting aspect is the group of four long traces that act as an expandable i2c bus. [CNLohr] went with this so that he could use daughter boards to add in sensors later. In the demonstration seen after the video he’s using a photodiode as a color sensor. It allowed him to write the color-based game seen above where you shoot a different color of target in each round.

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NES light gun gets a burning laser upgrade

The Nintendo Light Gun makes a perfect burning laser. Of course it’s been gutted to make this happen. Nonetheless, the retro look can’t be beat, and the gun form factor is just what you need in a laser weapon.

This will literally burn your eye out of your head, so [Justin] and his buddies over a North Street Labs are all wearing protective goggles designed for this laser’s wavelength. But they also built a safety into the zapper itself. At the beginning of the video clip (embedded after the break) you will see there’s a key lock mounted in the butt. This lock completes the circuit between the battery and driver board. The 2W output is achieved by a 445nm M140 diode. A lot went into the heat sink and mounting cylinder to make sure the diode doesn’t just burn up after a few seconds of use.

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