Adding A Laser Blaster To Classic Atari 2600 Games With Machine Vision

Remember the pistol controller for the original Atari 2600? No? Perhaps that’s because it never existed. But now that we’re living in the future, adding a pistol to the classic games of the 2600 is actually possible.

Possible, but not exactly easy. [Nick Bild]’s approach to the problem is based on machine vision, using an NVIDIA Xavier NX to run an Atari 2600 emulator. The game is projected on a wall, while a camera watches the game field. A toy pistol with a laser pointer attached to it blasts away at targets, while OpenCV is used to find the spots that have been hit by the laser. A Python program matches up the coordinates of the laser blasts with coordinates within the game, and then fires off a sequence of keyboard commands to fire the blasters in the game. Basically, the game plays itself based on where it sees the laser shots. You can check out the system in the video below.

[Nick Bild] had a busy weekend of hacking. This was the third project write-up he sent us, after his big-screen Arduboy build and his C64 smartwatch.

5 thoughts on “Adding A Laser Blaster To Classic Atari 2600 Games With Machine Vision

  1. From scan-line based guns through Wii remotes, there’s been a lot of ways to handle pistols in games. But using openCV? It looks like it works fine, but it’s telling that the easiest solution is now to just throw machine vision at it!
    The real magic in any case is converting that back to inputs for a game which was never intended to handle a gun input device. Good work!
    I wonder how it changes the difficulty and challenges of the game?

  2. This is an elegant solution. But while it works for games not designed for light guns, I think it’s not quite as good as other solutions for games that were originally designed for light guns, because the red dot on the screen when you shoot and miss would make it easier to set up a follow up shot than with a real light gun that had no such feedback.

  3. The 2600 *did* have a lightgun controller, and a half dozen games or so supported it. Very late in the life cycle, the games were compatible with the XEGS lightgun and the Sega Master System lightgun too (with a small mod to the gun itself).
    Of the supported games, the only one that comes to mind at the moment is “Sentinel”.

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