February 15, 2007
Critical Power Streamliner Simulator
This worked out VERY cool and was definitely worth the effort to put it together, as it is totally the high-light of the school presentations. The short video clip above says it all. Thanks to Matt for the awesome video work, and to Jennifer for the photography and help.
The simulator is based on an Xbox game called "Midtown Madness". In the game, you drive a vehicle around a 3D city with other traffic, pedestrians and miscellaneous obstacles. If you hit another vehicle or pedestrian, they will go flying out of the way. People on the streets sense when you are approaching and they scream for their lives and run away. You can drive up onto sidewalks, over grassy parks or even into the ocean. The virtual city seems very extensive and I have yet to explore the entire environment.
To connect the Critical Power steering bar to the Xbox controller, I bonded a plastic lever to the Xbox thumb control and it is activated with a brake cable that is connected to the steering bar. It works amazingly well - very sensitive, but super easy to steer.
The video monitor is a cheap mini-DVD player system I picked up at an electronics discount store. It came with 2 external monitors which is really convenient because as the kids line up to take their turn driving the simulator, they have a blast watching the current driver zoom around the city.
When you are sitting in the streamliner, looking at the video monitor, you get a real sense of steering this streamliner down the street - it really is a blast!
And to add even more realism, I can slip my wind trainer rollers under the front wheel and the rider can pedal as they navigate the virtual course. It is amazing how much more real it becomes when you combine actual peddling with the virtual display.
Unfortunately, the kids have a tough time reaching the pedals. I even added some cranks to the mid drive to move the pedals closer to the seat, but it's still tough for little legs to reach that far. I'll keep working on a solution for that - if you can think of anything, let me know.