MAKE Projects Editor, Paul Spinrad, sent me a link to this project and the following message:
Some CS / Game Development students hacked a Lord Of The Rings pinball machine, taking full control of its sensors, actuators, and display, and reprogrammed it to play Pinhorse — like the basketball game, but you try to match your opponent’s pinball shots in a certain amount of time, guided by the playfield lights and display. Control comes from a Linux PC and a Parallax microcontroller. Here’s the project page with a video and academic paper. Naturally, they had to do some heavy-duty reverse-engineering.
The video narrative is a little hard to follow, but it does look like an interesting, challenging project.
Project “Programming Pinball Machines” [Thanks, Paul!]