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Real Gauges for Sims

Standard interface allows sim games to use physical gauges
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I am thinking of physical gauges for simulated instruments. This would be like a box with a dialface that looks like a speedometer, that you set on your desk. I know several companies have made these for specific flight simulators etc.

******** My new idea is to make the interface a standard, and to make the gauge generic and modifiable with a custom face and dial for each game. *********

When you play a driving game, the speedometer indicates the simulated speed of your car. That is, you have a set of real instruments on your desk, and the display is just used to show the view from the car/plane/tank/ship or whatever, just like they use with high end simulators. I know these have been around forever, but they are not widely used in games because the game needs to support them, and the gauge has to be customized for the type of game.

Specific implementation:

1. Make a standard for all simulation games that use gauges of any kind (speedometers, artificial horizons, tachometers etc etc) to output the readings. Maybe this could be part of DirectX or something, or some sort of standard .dll, or some thing that Linux machines can handle too. This would be like force-feedback, a defined standard that any game can use.

2. Make a generic gauge. It uses a stepper motor to arbitrarily rotate a shaft. It takes a punch-out paper face and a punch-out paper needle (or artificial horizon, or whatever.) It interfaces via USB.

3. In any computer game that uses gauges, include a paper card with the dial face and dial needle. You punch out the face, slip it into the generic gauge, and it becomes an instrument for your sim game. Additionally, or alternatively, they could include a .pdf file or something like that so you could print your own dial.

The software will allow you to set up as many gauge devices as you like, so you can buy 10 generic gauges and turn your desk into a fully instrumented flight simulator, or buy 3 gauges and turn your desk into a car dashboard.

In addition to gauges, you could support blinking lights, external buzzers, and other doodads, with the same interface. For example, the drag racing game might have a tachometer that includes a shift-light. It would output the tach reading and the state of the light. If you had both a dial gauge and a USBified R-G-B LED, you put the dial gauge on the desk, stick the LED on top of the gauge, and then you have a pretty good shift-indicting tach. Later, you might reuse the gauge as an artificial horizon and the lamp as a landing-gear up/down indicator. Of course, if the sim needs more instruments than you have, you could have a mix of on-screen and real instruments. You could even use instruments for non-sim games, as a dial indicating how many hitpoints your RPG guy has left, for example.

Krate, Feb 08 2002

Ambient Devices globe http://www.ambientd...om/productline.html
And lo, in the Palantir, midcaps down 2% [hello_c, Feb 09 2002]

Simulated Avionics http://www.avshop.n...light-controls.html
Here are some external dodads for a specific flight sim. I guess they don't really have gauges per se, and they are hard-coded into a special flight simulator. [Krate, Feb 11 2002]


       Make it a set of 3 or 4 round, blank LCD screens and you could display whatever you wanted. You're right in saying that the interface would have to be standardized, though.
phoenix, Feb 08 2002

       Heh. If you redline, you're going to hell.
phoenix, Feb 08 2002

       This would be useful outside of the game market. E.g., sysadmins could see the network load on a real gauge (as I know some people do, hi JI), and I'm sure some people would love to replace the digital noises announcing e-mail or friends' presence with the soft ping of a real bell.
jutta, Feb 09 2002

       Ambient Devices (link) is all about this, though they're going for glowing glass orbs that announce one's current portfolio movements.   

       I think your generic platform for new hardware is a much cuter idea. I think so especially because there's a litter of nice old gauges sitting around in my basement, and no need to measure anything in kilovolts.
hello_c, Feb 09 2002

       There really are already things like this? <Albeit specific to particular programs> I did not know that...I really like this idea...And wish I had a stock portfolio for one of those globes, too. I love blinkenlites...
StarChaser, Feb 09 2002

       How about real vehicles with USB ports. Just plug your car/plane in, put the monitor up on the hood/nose, and you're "Driving/Flying"!
prune, Feb 11 2002

       Actually hello_c it is even closer than that, Ambient Devices has developed a platform for communication of status-based information to wireless and wired devices.   

       For instance, at TED Conference this week they are showing (drum roll) Weather Gauges! They configure (using stepper motors no less) to show the current temperature, the forecasted temperature tommorow, and for the weekend. Three gauges show the temperature in three different cities.. all the devices just look like clean, pretty, brass clocks - they just happen to be connected.   

       You could easily take these interfaces from Ambient and design outputs for game designs. Again, the key is interest from the game industry adhering to the standard.
nhyatt, Feb 21 2002


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