While we don’t always appreciate it, consider for a moment how amazing it is that it’s almost trivial to play a video game with someone next door — or on the next continent. Of course, these games are really “just” 1s and 0s transmitted at staggering speeds, and one might argue that you’re not actually doing anything in reality… Unless, of course, you’re driving actual 1/43 scale cars via SurrogateTV.
As seen here, races take place using tiny cars on an actual miniature track in Helsinki, Finland. Each is controlled by a Wemos D1 Mini Pro ESP8266 board, which was the perfect size to replace the stock controller in these vehicles. An STM32-based driver board provides power to the two motors, and a custom PCB is used to connect to remaining circuitry for easy retrofits. This also allows it to take advantage of the car’s color sensor underneath, which is used for interactive features like slowing down on green “grass” and getting a power boost if it hits a yellow section.
The track includes an automated charging system, where cars pull into a slot with spring contacts as needed, and the batteries are upgraded so that two sets of cars can theoretically operate continuously. Finally, a computer vision system is implemented to enable the computer to drive as needed, as well as track how each car finishes. It’s a brilliant technical achievement, and if you want to actually participate in a race, you can do so here!
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Author: Jeremy S. Cook