Hacklet 101 – Pinball projects

There’s something about pinball that draws in hackers, makers, and engineers. Maybe it’s the flashing lights, the sounds, the complex mechanical movements. Could it be the subtle tactics required to master the game? Whatever the reason, everyone loves pinball, and more than a few hackers have dedicated their time and money toward building, restoring, and hacking pinball machines. This week’s Hacklet is all about the best pinball projects on Hackaday.io!

trekpinWe start with [zittware] and Star Trek: The Mirror Universe Pinball. [Zittware] worked with [clay], [fc2sw], and [steve] to create this awesome project. They took a 1978 Bally Star Trek pinball machine, and rebuilt an evil mirror universe version. The electronics include nixie tubes and a bulletproof power supply based upon an ATX computer setup. New play field elements and hardware were created on a CNC. Evil graphics were created with the help of Photoshop. The game is completely playable, and was a crowd favorite in the Hackaday Sci-Fi contest. The electronics and cabinet work are all open source. Unfortunately those pesky copyright laws prevent the team from sharing the artwork.

riiingpinNext up is [Erland Lewin] with RINNIG Pinball Simulator. Some hackers have the space for a few real pinball machines. For the rest of us, there is virtual pinball. [Erland Lewin] built this mini virtual pinball machine from plywood, some real pinball hardware, and a lot of ingenuity. The play field is a 24″ dell computer monitor, while the back glass is a 20″ monitor. A final 15″ monitor takes the place of the Dot Matrix Display (DMD) often found on pinball machines. The whole system is driven by an Intel i3 computer. [Erland] is going to try to use the on-board graphics. If he runs into trouble, he can always switch to a discrete graphics card. The machine has turned out great, and his sons love playing classic pinball machines on their own “kid sized” table.

pinboxIf virtual pinball is still a bit large for you, [Loyal J] has you covered with Pinbox Jr. Desktop computer virtual pinball has been a thing since the days of Windows XP. Somehow tapping keyboard keys isn’t quite the same as hitting real flipper buttons. Pinbox Jr. is a prototype pinball controller built inside a cardboard box. A Teensy 3.1 translates the buttons to USB keyboard inputs. Two large arcade buttons act as the flippers while two smaller buttons are available for game options and other functions.  [Loyal J] even added a triple axis accelerometer so pinbox responds to rough play with a tilt! All this project needs is a solenoid to replicate that real pinball feel.

optimusAt the top of the virtual pinball mountain stands [Randy Walker] with Optimus-Pin. Optimus is a full-sized virtual pinball cabinet. It’s a 3 screen affair, much like RINNIG Pinball up top. [Randy] took things to the next level with an absolutely gorgeous custom cabinet. The Transformers inspired artwork was created on commission by commercial artist [Javier Reyes]. Optimus really recreates the feel of playing pinball with 8 solenoids placed in strategic positions around the cabinet. Even the whirring of play-field motors is replicated by a hidden Volkswagen wiper motor. Optimus also comes with a complete light show including RGB LED strips, strobes, and a shaker to rattle the entire cabinet.

If you want to see more pinball projects check out our brand new pinball projects list! If I missed your project, don’t be shy! Just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Digital Pinball With Force Feedback

pinball Hang around Hackaday long enough and you’ll hear about MAME, and all the other ways to emulate vintage arcade machines on a computer. The builds are usually fantastic, with real arcade buttons, MDF cabinets, and side graphics with just the right retro flair to make any connoisseur of ancient video games happy. MAME is only emulating old video games, though, and not physical systems like the digital pinball system [ronnied] put up on the Projects site.

[ronnied] was inspired by a real life, full-size White Water pinball machine at his previous job, and decided it was high time for him to acquire – somehow – a pinball machine of his own. He had a spare computer sitting around, an old 16:9 monitor for the main playfield, and was donated a smaller 4:3 monitor for the backglass. With an MDF cabinet, PinMAME, and a little bit of work, [ronnied] had his own machine capable of recreating hundreds of classic machines.

The build didn’t stop at just a few arcade buttons and a screen; [ronnied] added a 3-axis accelerometer for a tilt mechanism, solenoids and a plunger torn from a real pinball machine for a more realistic interface, and a Williams knocker for a very loud bit of haptic feedback. We’ve seen solenoids, buzzers, and knockers in pinball emulators before, and the vibrations and buzzing that comes with these electromechanical add ons make all the difference; without them, it’s pretty much the same as playing a pinball emulator on a computer. With them, it’s pretty easy to convince yourself you’re playing a real machine.

Videos of the mechanisms below.

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Mini Pinball MAME machine is small enough to fit in any game room

A huge collection of pinball machines in your basement is one of the crowing achievements of a geek, but what if you could have a huge library of physical pinball machines at you fingertips? [veriix] shared an imgur gallery in a reddit post documenting his wee little pinball machine he built from scratch.

Inside the pinball cabinet, there are two monitors. A 4:3 Samsung monitor serves as  the backglass for the machine while a 23″ HDTV provides the playfield. On the software side of things, [veriix] used PINMAME and Visual Pinball 9 running on an old motherboard he had lying around. The result is impressive. The HD monitor playfield provides the right perspective to fool [veriix]’s brain into thinking he’s playing a real pinball machine.

We’ve seen PINMAME builds before, but those were encased in full-size pinball cabinets that took up far too much room. [veriix]’s machine is much smaller, and perfect for the garage, den, basement, or anywhere you’d like to set up an awesome game room.

You can check out [veriix] playing his mini pinball machine after the break. Thanks [Johnny] for sending this one in.

Continue reading “Mini Pinball MAME machine is small enough to fit in any game room”

Pinball Stomp: part1

Despite my atrociously short attention span, I’ve always loved pinball. Maybe it is something about all the flashing lights and clunking solenoids. Maybe it is just the simple physics at the center of it all. I’m not really sure.  My kids, however, don’t share my enthusiasm. I suspect part of it is that they never wandered through a fog filled arcade in the middle of the night, hopped up on Reese’s Pieces with a shrinking pile of quarters in their pocket. The other part might be the fact that they have gotten used to the Nintendo Wii and the Xbox Kinect (we just got one last week).

Watching them jump up and down playing an extremely simple and repetitive game with the Kinect gave me an idea. I envisioned pinball projected on the side of my house, the kids jumping up and down in front of it to move the paddles. Keep reading to see how I plan to build it and what I’ve done so far. There’s a full video, but also text of the entire thing.
Continue reading “Pinball Stomp: part1”