Godzilla multiplied by Arcade Games plus McDonalds divided by Pepsi Max plus StepMania equals Tom Tilley
Thomas Tilley
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REAL-Tron (Tron-IRL)

2009


Two-player GL-Tron with real motorbikes

One of my colleagues had asked me if I had any ideas for a fun and geeky project that we could do with the students from our department at a BBQ. As I pondered a suitable project I happened to be passing a junkyard that had a few old motorbikes prominently displayed out the front. I thought "wouldn't it be fun to extend the PVC water pipe Tron controller and use the handlebars from a real motorbike to play GL-Tron" and then it dawned on me - why use just the handlebars, why not use the whole motorbike!

Most of the university students here in Thailand ride motorbikes so we would have a ready supply of machines to use. However, we needed a way of connecting the bikes to the computer with minimal modification - so the students wouldn't mind their bikes being used. I decided to add turn buttons to the bikes using tact switches mounted on small sections of PVC pipe. These could be easily attached to the front of the handlebars using cable ties (and easily removed later on). On the right hand pipe sections I also mounted a mercury switch so that the bike's accelerator could be used within the game. On most motorbikes it is possible to turn off the fuel line so that this wouldn't flood the engine.

TACT switches mounted on sections of PVC pipe Mercury switch glued inside a section of plastic balloon stick




The first two images below show the PVC sections mounted on the handlebars. The orientation may seem a little counter-intuitive but the handlebars are shown as if you are facing the front of the bike (imagine a headlight between the two images or see the video below for a cheap, Blade Runner-style overview by Rick Deckard). The would-be lightcyclist turns by squeezing the buttons, which are attached to the front of the handgrips, with their index fingers. The bike's center stands are used to keep them upright and a 1/2 round of bamboo jammed beneath the back wheel stops them from rocking backwards and forwards.

Right motorcycle handgrip with the right turn button and Mercury switch accelerator attached Left motorcycle handgrip with the left turn button attached Motorbike with the center stand down and a half section of bamboo jammed beneath the rear wheel

The turn buttons and the accelerator switch are connected to the computer via a "breakout box" which is plugged into a hacked USB joystick (my original Thrustmaster USB joypad which is now housed in a project case - in the picture below right it is the black box closest to the tire on the red bike). The joypad has 4 direction inputs plus 8 buttons which gives a total of 12 available inputs. Each bike requires 3 inputs (left, right, and accelerate) so in theory it should be possible to connect a total of 12/3 = 4 bikes.

The breakout box simply consists of 6 sprung stereo speaker terminals mounted on a project box which are wired to a male 25-pin D-sub miniature connector. The buttons on the joypad all share a common connection so only 13 of the 25 pins are used and all of the black terminals are wired together. While it would have been possible to solder connections from each bike directly to a 25-pin D-sub connector this set-up allows to easily swap wires on the fly and doesn't require any soldering.

Building the breakout box using a project box and 6 x sprung stereo speaker terminals The completed breakout box Connecting two motorbikes to a laptop to play GL-Tron

You can see the bikes in action here:


Up to four lightcycles can race in GL-Tron with any combination of human or computer players. We set-up the bikes outdoors and used a data projector with a bedsheet for a screen. The picture below left shows the first bike we wired playing against the computer. Games are usually more fun with a human opponent so we also wired up a second bike for head-to-head battles and of course women can be "Tronnies" too.

A Payap University student playing GL-Tron on a real motorbike Father and son playing GL-Tron using real motorbikes Two Payap University students playing GL-Tron on real motorbikes

On another occasion we also set the bikes up indoors and while the hacked USB joypad has enough inputs for 4 bikes to be connected at the same time GL-Tron doesn't seem to like using the "up" and "down" keys in-game. This leaves enough inputs for 3 bikes to play using their accelerators but with 4 players we could only use the left and right controls. This could easily be overcome by handing control for some of the bikes over to a second hacked joystick.

Thai university students playing GL-Tron indoors using three motorbikes Playing GL-Tron indoors with four players using real motorbikes

A number of people have asked why I didn't wire up the bikes so that you could turn the handlebars to steer rather than pressing buttons. While I think this would be possible I don't think it would be as easy to hook up (or later remove from) the bikes. In addition I think the inertia involved in turning the handlebars would make it difficult to turn quickly enough at times. For example, imagine trying to do this.

Other Projects

You may also be interested in reading about some of my other projects, many of which use hacked controllers, PVC water pipe, GL-Tron, and/or mercury switches:

hacked joysticks PVC water pipe Guitar Hero TRON/motorbikes mercury switch
REAL-Tron
REAL-Tron
Asteroids Cabinet Fish Tank
Asteroids Cabinet Fish Tank
Web Kiosk Online Keyboard
Web Kiosk Online Keyboard
Spiritual Gifts Applet
Spiritual Gifts Applet
Hovercraft
Hovercraft
Wooden DDR Mat
Wooden DDR Mat
Everyday uses for PVC water pipe
Everyday uses for PVC water pipe
Bug-zapper Guitar Hero Controller
Bug-zapper Guitar Hero Controller
PVC Water Pipe Tron Controller
PVC Water Pipe Tron Controller
PVC Racing Cars
PVC Racing Cars
Virtual Pinball
Virtual Pinball
Halo Motorbike Helmet
Halo Motorbike Helmet
Multiplayer Guitar Hero
Multiplayer Guitar Hero
Bamboo Racing Cars
Bamboo Racing Cars
Terminator Xeyes
T-800 Terminator Xeyes
Plasma Pong Table
Plasma Pong Table
Voting Machine
Voting Machine
Blossom Motorbike Helmet
Blossom Motorbike Helmet
Coffee Grinder Puzzle Bobble
Coffee Grinder Puzzle Bobble
Stormtrooper Motorbike Helmet
Stormtrooper Motorbike Helmet
TRON Handheld POV Display
TRON Handheld POV Display
Countertop MAME Arcade Cabinet
Countertop MAME Arcade Cabinet
Lollybot
Lollybot
Payap Pinball Machine
Payap Pinball
Spacewar! Controllers
Spacewar! Controllers
Gundam Motorcycle Helmet
Gundam Motorcycle Helmet