The Little Lightgun That Could: Sinden Makes Good

Back in 2018, we covered the work being done by [Andrew Sinden] to create a lightgun that could work on modern televisions. The project was looking for funding via Kickstarter, but due at least in part to skepticism about the technology involved, the campaign fell well short of its goal. It seemed, at the time, like the story would end there.

But we were recently pointed to a fascinating interview with [Andrew] that ran in The Guardian a couple months back that not only tells the rest of the story, but concludes with a happy ending — after years of hard work, the Sinden Lightgun is now available for purchase. It’s not exactly the turn-key product that some would like, as there’s a fair number of hoops one must jump through just to bag some eponymous waterfowl in Duck Hunt, but nothing that would scare off the average Hackaday reader.

Limited technical details about the 2018 prototype may have kept backers away.

The final version of the hardware ditches the realistic firearm aesthetic inherited from the Wii gun accessory it was designed to fit into, and now features a brightly-colored pistol enclosure that wouldn’t look out of place tethered to a Virtua Cop machine. It’s also gained an optional recoil solenoid for force feedback, though it tacks on another $60 to the already hefty $100 price tag for the base model.

We’re glad to see that [Andrew] recognized the importance of getting Linux support for the software side of things, as it enabled the development of a pre-configured Retropie image for the Raspberry Pi 4. Though you aren’t forced to emulate on the Pi, for those who would like to blast the occasional zombie on their desktop, Windows and x86 Linux are also supported.

Often times, when we cover a project here on Hackaday it’s a one-shot deal: somebody had a particular need or desire, built a gadget to fulfill it, and moved on. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s a certain feeling of pride when we see a project from this community develop into something more. While not every hacked together piece of hardware we feature has the potential to be the next Arduboy or Sinden Lightgun, we like to think that we’ve already covered the next big project-turned-product success story and just don’t know it yet.

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Nerf Blaster Becomes Light Gun Controller

Traditional light guns rely on quirks of CRT technology, and thus don’t play well with modern LCD televisions and monitors. However, die hard retro gamers aren’t known for moving on from the classics, and have persevered to build new hardware to suit the games of old. In just this vein, [BrittLiv] grabbed some Nerf blasters, and built a pair of light guns that work with today’s hardware.

The build relies on Ultramarc’s light gun kits, which work in a similar way to the original Wiimote. A camera inside the blaster is used to triangulate an LED bar placed on top of the screen for clean and accurate tracking. [BrittLiv] combined the Ultramarc kit with some clever hacks to a Nerf DoubleStrike blaster, stealthily hiding the buttons inside to interface with the original trigger and cocking mechanism, as well as the locking tab in the rail.

There’s both a wired and wireless version, and the setup looks to be a great way to enjoy classics like Duck Hunt and Point Blank. The blasters work great with common platforms like MAME and RetroPi as the Ultramarc hardware emulates a standard USB mouse.

We’ve seen some wild light gun hacks before, like this build that uses cameras and maths to make things work without an LED bar at all! Video after the break.

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The Fun Is On The Christmas Tree With This Playable Duck Hunt Decoration

‘Tis the season for leftovers, be they food, regifted presents, or the decorations left behind in the wake of the festivities. Not to mention the late tips we get for holiday-themed builds, like this Duck Hunt ornament that’s completely playable.

Details are sparse in [wermy]’s video below, but there’s enough there to get the gist. The game is based on the Nintendo classic, where animated ducks fly across the screen and act as targets for a light pistol. Translating that to something suitable for decorating a Christmas tree meant adding an Arduino and an IR LED to the original NES light pistol, and building a base station with a Feather and a small LCD screen into a case that looks like [The Simpsons] TV. An LED on each 3d-printed duck target lights in turn, prompting you to blast it with the gun. An IR sensor on each duck registers hits, while the familiar sound effects are generated by the base, which also displays the score. Given a background of festive blinkenlights, it’s harder than it sounds – see it in action briefly below.

[wermy] has done some interesting builds before, like a RetroPie in an Altoids tin and a spooky string of eyes for Halloween. We hope he’ll come through with a more detailed build video for this project at some point – we’re particularly interested in those beautiful multi-color 3D-prints.

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A Lightgun For LCDs – Thanks To Maths!

Light guns were a fun way to learn to shoot things on consoles, enjoying their heyday in the 80s and 90s. The original designs largely relied on the unique characteristics of CRT televisions and the timing involved in the drawing of their frames. Unfortunately, due to a variety of reasons (dependent on the exact techniques used), they typically do not work at all with modern LCD & plasma screens.

The light gun contains a camera, and reportedly works by using the distortion of the rectangular image of the screen to calculate the position of the light gun itself.

Recently, there has emerged a new project called the Sinden Lightgun. In the How It Works video, it seems to use a fairly standard 30fps camera inside the gun to image the television screen being used by the game. The display is then rendered in 4:3, letterboxed on a 16:9 aspect ratio display, within a rectangular bezel. The image from the camera is then processed, and the distortion of the game image is used to calculate the position of the gun and the direction of its aim. Processing is handled by the host computer running MAME and the requisite coordinates are fed back in to the game code.

The basic concept seems sound, though as always, there’s a healthy amount of skepticism around the project. We’d love to hear your take, on whether the concept is plausible, and whether the lag figures stated are cromulent. We’re always excited to see new developments in the lightgun space! Video after the break.

Our own [Will Sweatman] penned an excellent piece on a variety of ways one could resurrect the venerable game of Duck Hunt, too.
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Tricking Duck Hunt To See A Modern LCD TV As CRT

A must-have peripheral for games consoles of the 1980s and 1990s was the light gun. A lens and photo cell mounted in a gun-like plastic case, the console could calculate where on the screen it was pointing when its trigger was pressed by flashing the screen white and sensing the timing at which the on-screen flying spot triggered the photo cell.

Unfortunately light gun games hail from the era of CRT TVs, they do not work with modern LCDs as my colleague [Will Sweatman] eloquently illustrated late last year. Whereas a CRT displayed the dot on its screen in perfect synchronization with the console output, an LCD captures a whole frame, processes it and displays it in one go. All timing is lost, and the console can no longer sense position.

[Charlie] has attacked this problem with some more recent technology and a bit of lateral thinking, and has successfully brought light gun games back to life. He senses where the gun is pointing using a Wiimote with its sensor bar on top of the TV through a Raspberry Pi, and feeds the positional information to an Arduino. He then takes the video signal from the console and strips out its sync pulses which also go to the Arduino. Knowing both position and timing, the Arduino can then flash a white LED stuck to the end of the light gun barrel at the exact moment that part of the CRT would have been lit up, and as far as the game is concerned it has received the input it is expecting.

He explains the timing problem and his solution in the video below the break. He then shows us gameplay on a wide variety of consoles from the era using the device. More information and his code can be found on his GitHub repository.

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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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