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Fitness Racer: PC Control of an RC Car 111

An anonymous reader writes "This project gives step-by-step instructions + source for connecting a cheap RC car to your parallel port and driving it around with a Dance Dance Revolution pad (or joystick). A fun way to make an old toy fun for another few hours, and another way to pretend that reading Slashdot may eventually lead to body movement."
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Fitness Racer: PC Control of an RC Car

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  • Wifi + Webcam (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aardwolf204 ( 630780 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @03:36PM (#7274083)
    Give it WiFi and a webcam and I'm sure it would be even more fun. ;)
    • Supprisingly enough i did something simiular to this for a "senior design project" at college. I did add a couple of sensors and a micro-controller with some code, but it was largly the same idea. If you get the timings right you can use the serial port of the computer to simulate PWM waves (which is what most speed controls and servo motors on RC cars use for their controls) and you can acutally get analogue control working.
    • Next step: AI!

      It'll be like a Roomba, but without the useful vaccuum action.

      -- Dr. Eldarion --
    • very cool indeed.
    • I just randomly grabbed a subject from one of my spams figuring that it would be a good way to get attention to this comment.

      I think this article is interesting not for geek reasons, but because it represents a thumb your nose to the slashvertisement [] we saw yesterday on the VIA-based Mobile Robot Design For Download []. Even my own comment [] pointed out how you could basically build your own for for just the cost of few electronics.

      Cool, slashdot is starting to tell their advertisers Kiss my ass! Way to

    • and then add a pneumatic hammer or flipper and some armour, plus a bit of AI, and you'll have _real_ Robot Wars.
      • The teacher of robotic Pastore, project your first arm manipulator in 1983. In 2001, have a first place in first war of robot in UNICAMP, public in magazine "Mecatronica Facil" january 2002 post "War of Robot". In 2001 projetc your first robot to farm in Federal School of Agriculture the Inconfidentes (city of state of Minas Gerais). In home page (english and portuguese) write on discussion of education robotic to people and university: How a war of robot in future? By mec
    • Check this Wifi-car [].
    • dude... I had this idea a few months ago, except people online could control the mini-rc cars..

      damn... figures..
  • OSS racing games. :)
  • by joeldg ( 518249 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @03:39PM (#7274122) Homepage
    and yet more ways to waste time..

    somehow I remember time being at a premium..

    seems a long time ago now..

    time to get me an RC car..

    • Connect joystick. Pretend to use keyboard and joystick to play game. Watch crowd go crazy when the car is going round the room.

    • Funny, when I look back, I seem to remember time being as ubiquitous and free as air. Now that I am (ahem) MARRIED, I don't know what to do with the 30 attoseconds of free time per day I am alotted. Why, it's almost enough to pos[**QUOTA EXCEEDED**]
  • by aardwolf204 ( 630780 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @03:39PM (#7274124)
    This page explains how to cheaply connect a Dance Dance Revolution pad to an RC car via your PC, for literally minutes of racing enjoyment. Even more fun than the "race tracks" we played with in elementary school, where all you actually did was hold down a button and wait for your car to fall off the track.

    The general approach taken here is to use the parallel port to flip the switches in the RC controller, thereby avoiding all the radio stuff. A few transistors are required to help the 3.3V parallel port pull down some pins on the 9V RC car controller.

    Source code is included below... it actually just uses DirectInput to talk to the pad, so if you're burning to drive an RC car around with your PC joystick or keyboard, that works too. If you're using this approach, the software also tries to pulse the pins on the parallel port to give you some crude analog speed control.

    What you'll need :

    A Dance Dance Revolution pad. I recommend buying one of the soft PlayStation pads, which run about $20, and nailing it down to a big piece of plywood, as is illustrated in the image to the left. The soft pads tend to slide around and/or rip apart without support, and the hard pads are expensive.
    A cheap-ass RC car... the kind that actually has no analog steering, just four switches for forward, back, left, and right. This includes just about any car you get for $20 or less. I went with the fabulous Nikko Octane.
    A few electronic components, namely:

    # A DB-25-M connector
    # Four resistors, about 500ohms
    # Four NPN transistors
    # Wire+solder

    Total cost ~$6 at Radio Shack. I also used a breadboard to make nicer pictures, although this project is probably appropriate for the solder-in-the-air-and-cover-it-in-duct-tape-or-glu e approach.

    Connecting the hardware :

    First you'll need to open up the controller and take a look at the switches. The buttons shown here each have four terminals on them, but you only need to make one connection to each button. If you're using a different car than I am, you'll need to put a voltmeter on the terminals to find out which ones you care about. What you want is a terminal that is normally sitting at 9V relative to the battery ground, but goes to 0V when you press the button. For this particular controller, there were two terminals on each button that fit this description, and I picked one arbitrarily on each button. If you're looking at the controller as shown in the image to the left, I chose :

    # The upper-right terminal on the "forward" button
    # The lower-right terminal on the "reverse" button
    # The lower-left terminal on the "left" button
    # The upper-right terminal on the "right" button

    Solder about 8 inches of wire to each of these terminals, and about 8" of wire to the battery ground.
    Now we connect all the components, according to the schematic show on the left. The important points are :

    # Battery ground on the controller needs to get connected to ground on the parallel port
    # The emitter from each transistor goes to the common ground
    # The collector on each transistor goes to one of the terminals in the car controller
    # The base on each transistor goes through a resistor to one of the parallel port data pins

    The software expects the reverse, right, left, and forward switches to be on the parallel port's data 1, 2, 3, and 4 pins, respectively. Data 0 got left out because it was mean to the other children on the playground.

    If you left enough wire between the components and the DB-25 connector, you can plug the whole mess right into the parallel port. I like to use an extension cable so I'm less likely to knock things out of my breadboard in the heat of my excitement about driving an RC car with my feet.
    You'll also need to connect your DDR pad to your PC somehow and get it recognized as a game controller, assuming you actually want to use the
    • As any truly enlightened geek know, the mod IS its own reward.
    • Too bad backyard hackers couldn't be bothered to learn basic microcontrollers. Using the parallel port for direct electrical I/O is contrived at best. It's not as if serial port work is hard with any good microcontroller, many of them have it built-in minus simple RS232 level conversion provided by a simple MAX232 chip. Program a few instructions to set up the chip, a few more to respond to new data, etc.
  • would be to conenct the remote to the parallel port, instead of the car. WTG, Michael!
    • That's exactly what he did. He used NPN transistors to simulate the pressing of the buttons on the controller.

      Granted, it's not perfect. He's going to end up with a small (~.2 to .7V) potential across the transistors, but that's not bad.

      I'd like to see an analog controlled device with proximity sensors at -45, 0 and 45 degrees forward and back.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    driving it around with a Dance Dance Revolution pad (or joystick). A fun way to make an old toy fun for another few hours

    This is Slashdot! The first coronaries will start after about 20 minutes.
  • by wankledot ( 712148 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @03:41PM (#7274152)
    OR a joystick?

    Am I the only person that thinks controlling an R/C car with a DDR pad is retarded?

    "You can drive this car with a wheel and pedals... OR you can control it using this jar of peanut butter and a hockey puck, wired to this monkey. "
    • Re:or a joystick? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 )
      no the retarted part is using a computer to do it.

      you are using the DDR pad's switches to tell the computer to trigger the RC car's remotes... SWITCHES!..

      Ooh boy. using a $1000.00 pc to translate switch closures to switch closures.

      whoopdie. I can do the same thing with $6.00 worth of wire,connectors, and bits.

      what's next on slashdot how to use a cray supercomputer to turn on a monitor?
    • Peanut butter and hockey puck, definitely!
  • What ? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Jesrad ( 716567 )
    another way to pretend that reading Slashdot may eventually lead to body movement.

    All this scrolling and clicking and typing is a lot of movement for me already, you insensitive clod !
  • by 3Suns ( 250606 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @03:43PM (#7274176) Homepage
    connecting a cheap RC car to your parallel port

    Haha, I had a picture in my head of someone trying to drive round a little car with one of those awful, fat, stiff printer cables attached to the back. Silly me.
  • It's led to body movement several times recently, as people have come upon the latest SCO story and laughed so hard that they had to get up off of the floor, back into their chairs...

    That, or they've become so annoyed that they've actually gone outside to do something.
  • by JemalCole ( 222845 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @03:45PM (#7274194) Homepage

    . . . and another way to pretend that reading Slashdot may eventually lead to body movement.

    Well, it would if the editors would accept more of my Natalie Portman stories, it would.

  • "Image shown for display purpose" in the picture of the kikijoy [] playstation-usb converter.

    What else would the image be used for again?

  • When in highschool My friend had a car that was the perfect size to make into a remotely Controled Real Car.. I would have Rhinolined the whole vehicle. Take it out to nowhere and Had fun Just watching a real car going, without a driver. we never did it... If I find a small vehicle I may do it Then make a webpage complete with my in handcuffs (ok maybe not) But hey maybe I could get that on slashdot. It would be halarious to see people look over on the highway at car with no driver. (In which case you rea
  • How about doing that with a REAL car?
  • by speedfreak_5 ( 546044 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @03:51PM (#7274254) Homepage Journal
    Try playing Gran Turismo 3 with Dance Dance Revolution pads. Against a drunk person, with said DDR pad.

    Fun times, fun times.
    • Tekken Tag is the best game to play with a DDR pad. Although it would actually be less tiring to just fight your opponent for real.
      • Second that for Tekkan Tag. =)

        I was actually beaten by someone using a DDR pad while I used a dual shock controller. A testament to my Tekken skills.

        I couldn't keep the party around long enough to get a DDR controller vs. a DVD remote control Tekken battle.
  • Did this once (Score:3, Interesting)

    by proj_2501 ( 78149 ) <> on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @03:51PM (#7274257) Journal
    For one of my senior-year classes at URI, we took apart the remote to a cheap car and did a similar trick of using transistors to simulate the switch-hitting.

    We connected the transistors to the parallel port of a Motorola ColdFire eval board and wrote some software to program routes.

    It would have been useful if the damn thing had any range whatsoever, but we spent a whole nine dollars on the car, so I'm not worried.
  • Bug Notice- (Score:5, Funny)

    by wo1verin3 ( 473094 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @03:54PM (#7274283) Homepage
    Version Number: V1.0
    Revision Date: 10-21-2003
    Patch(es) Replaced: None
    Caveats: None
    CVE Number(s): CAN-2003-4751

    Tested Software:
    Affected Software:
    * Microsoft Windows 2000, Service Pack 2
    * Microsoft Windows 2000, Service Pack 3, Service Pack 4
    * Microsoft Windows XP Gold, Service Pack 1
    * Microsoft Windows XP 64-bit Edition
    * Microsoft Windows XP 64-bit Edition Version 2003
    * Microsoft Windows Server 2003

    Software Not Affected:
    * Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition
    * Microsoft Windows Server 2003 64-bit Edition
    * Linux - All

    Untested Software:
    * SCO - No One Uses It So We Couldn't Test

    Technical Description:
    A security vulnerability exists in the Remote Control Service that could allow arbitrary code execution on an affected system. The vulnerability results because the Messenger Service does not properly validate the length of a message before passing it to the allocated buffer.

    An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could be easily drive remote controlled cars in to grandmothers or small children. This has been seen in the wild but has been limited to chasing cats.
  • is something to work that dance revolutions pad. Something like this [] should do the trick.

    So much for body movement.

  • connecting a cheap RC car to your parallel port and driving it around

    That must be a whopper of a car, to be able to drag a PC around with it.

  • and another way to pretend that reading Slashdot may eventually lead to body movement

    What you mean you didn't actually do some pushups before you voted in this poll. []
  • Now add a camera... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Phat_Tony ( 661117 )
    Now add one of those cheap cordless X-10 video cameras to the RC car, and watch the video on the computer while you drive it around using the computer controls.

    Have all your friends get these too, and set up a little race course. It'll be just like a first-person driving game, but you'll all have real little cars you're controlling.

    - Phat Tony.
    • Did this... (Score:3, Informative)

      by JMZero ( 449047 )
      Surprisingly not exciting.

      If you do plan on doing it, you'll be happy to note that the X10 cameras run a long time off of a regular 9-volt battery. You'll be unhappy to note that the viewing angle on an X10 camera is far from perfect for driving.

      Remote control plane? That's the ticket - and you can get a cheap RC plane for $60.
      • Yeah, actually, I was sort of kidding, it just seemed like a funny idea. If you're all looking at your computer screens, using computer controls, it would probably be a lot cheaper, easier, and more fun to just play a computer racing game. Who cares if there are really little cars out there driving around or not? I suppose it could be more of a spectator sport that way.

        I guess it might be interesting to try if I already had the stuff around, but it wouldn't be worth the money to get it. I'd rather buy Wi
        • I've never tried an X10 camera on a plane - they're a little heavy (I've never bothered to disassemble one). The framerate should be fine - TV standard. The range on an X10 isn't spectacular, and degrades/chops with a moving source. Still, you'd get reasonable video if you kept the plane quite close. When I've done a plane mount, it's usually much more interesting to have a straight-down cam then a pilot cam - it would be hard to fly like this I'd think.

          In any case, it's probably best to get a smaller,
  • ...really want one of those micro racers to do this with? Or a micro tank that shoots pellets? (That gun has to be triggered by somethine, might as well be a joystick trigger)... Terrorize the office or the classroom with your laptop! -Coach
    • Being a goalie - I would sure like to see more people of your opinion. It would sure save a lot of hassle with the people that you have to demonstrate this effect on.

  • waste of time? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pdk ( 35280 )
    I'm glad to see we're hitting the bottom of the barrel today on news. I built a PC controlled RC car in highschool. gee, to think I could be famous for posting photos and a webpage about it RIGHT NOW.

  • to possess a hammer and nails at the same time.

  • I would kill for something like this with Counter-Strike. Finally all those hours I spend could be put to exercise AND fragging. The ideal rig would make it possible to do all the basic movements- run, walk, strafe, crouch, jump, etc.
  • Remember that missions from GTA with RC cars? Humm.....
  • It would be interesting pitting a electric or gas powered R/c car controlled by a human vs a computer controlled car on one of those RC racing tracks.

  • Design changes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JMZero ( 449047 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @04:24PM (#7274655) Homepage
    I've found it's a lot quicker to build this kind of thing using relays for the switching. It means you don't have to do any thinking, and the switching speed is certainly fast enough for the application. I still used transistors to fire the relays - but it's still an extremely quick project.

    Using relays also means the project can be re-used with different hardware much more easily - just change what's hooked up to the relays.

    I also recommend the "UserPort" driver, which simply yields parallel port control to userland applications. Much simpler than monkeying about with special drivers.
  • similar idea (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I've been thinking about this for a while. With a Single Board Computer and a SV203 Board from Pontech (as listed on the palm pliot robot kit site) you could have some fun with this kind of thing. I would like to find a way of using the real RC controller to still drive it, but a Zaurus and WiFi would work good too :)
    The thought of driving it around the parkign lot, then hitting a repeat button and watching it do teh same moves on it's own would be fun...not too mention all the possibilities of cameras and
  • I've always wanted to replace the normal RC signal with WiFi. I can picture the robot battle craze moving to a standardized battle field where the people battling sit down at a standardized terminal and control RC mechs to fight with. using WiFi, you could build your own mechs as long as they could be controlled via WiFi. the battle field just has a wireless cloud over it. 'course, there's always the cool factor of having to log into and secure your mech before battle :)
    • Funny you should mention that.
      There are several robotics projects out there that use PDAs for processing and control functions. Just get a wireless enabled PDA.

      A friend and I have ripped apart a couple RC cars for this sort of thing. Instead of hooking the remote up to a parallel port, though, we hooked it up to a Basic Stamp. Been talking about hooking it up to a serial/parallel port just so we don't have to program in PBASIC anymore.

      Also talking about duct taping the hacked remote to the RC car and

  • Though the pads are somewhat worn out, it is good to know that I have something to attempt in the near future.

    But on a more serious note... could this have real-world applications in the future for someone who didn't have arms or hands? Could this, later on down the road, evolve into a foot-controlled robot that did basic tasks for those that needed it?
  • very funny
  • by Hershmire ( 41460 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @08:16PM (#7276784) Homepage
    Instead of a DDR pad, use a wireless joypad. Then you can follow the car around!

  • by aphor ( 99965 ) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @09:31PM (#7277310) Journal

    This software will probably scrape your hard drive for email addresses and then spam them with your return address, install a DDoS slave and invoke the return of Zuul, Queen of Gozer.

    Seriously, you have to download and install the program, then *two* drivers, and tell me (wise ones) you're not nervous about this?

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson