Some people who spent their youth in the 80s miss that era, and wish that things now were like they were then. Well, those people might be interested in the University of California at Irvine's OutRun Project. With the ultimate aim of developing gaming therapy systems for people such as quadriplegics, scientists involved in the project have created a kind of combination electric golf cart and arcade-style video game console. Players can actually drive the cart down the road, while an augmented reality feature displays the real-life road on the screen in front of them, but in the form of Sega's classic 8-bit road racing game, OutRun.
Designed by UC Irvine research scientist Garnet Hertz, the cart features dual forward-looking video cameras that scan the environment in front of the car, while custom software analyzes their output, searching for anything that looks like a road. That software then displays the real-world road in real time on the gaming console's screen, in the graphics style of the original game.
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It appears that the system doesn't recognize things like other vehicles or pedestrians, however, so it probably wouldn't be a good idea to take the cart out in the traffic.
While the OutRun Project itself looks like it was a lot of fun to work on, UCI researchers state that it has shown them "whole new ways of thinking about how game-based virtual worlds can be embodied into physical devices in order to create new experiences." This could in turn lead to new game-based therapies for people confined to electric wheelchairs, where they would actually play the game as their chair was in motion, instead of just sitting at a computer.
... and for all those people who wish the world was still like it was in 80s, Hertz is also proposing an iPhone augmented reality app that would let users see the world around them as if it were part of the retro OutRun world.
The video below shows the cart in motion, and provides more information on how it works.