Niklas Roy has built an addictive-looking 70’s-style videogame system that is “controlerless” like an Xbox Kinect, yet charmingly low-rez like Pong.

What I found interesting when I developed this game, is, that it could have been made already in the seventies. The technology that I used for it is (in a way) similar to what Atari used for the first Pong. It becomes even more awkward, if you think that the electronic components for capturing and evaluating a video signal are cheaper than the rotary game controllers that Atari used.

The game is programed with AVR-GCC on an ATmega8 microcontroller that runs with 16MHz. The controller gets basic videosignal synchronisation information from an LM1881 sync separator that triggers two hardware interrupts. One for a new image, the other one for a new line. The controller evaluates the brightness around the pixel (/ball) via its comparator input. Drawing the white image overlay is realized with a simple pull-up resistor in the signal line.

Niklas has shared the source code here. Now, please give us a schematic, because I want to build one!

PING! Augmented Pixel

John Edgar Park

John Edgar Park

John Edgar Park likes to make things and tell people about it. He works in CG animation at DisneyToon Studios and writes for Make, Boing Boing, and other places online and in print. You can find him at jpixl.net and twitter @johnedgarpark — if you like that sort of thing.


  • Anonymous

    “It becomes even more awkward, if you think that the electronic
    components for capturing and evaluating a video signal are cheaper than
    the rotary game controllers that Atari used.”

    Now they are, but was that true back in the seventies? Besides, I don’t suppose this cost analysis includes the camera…

    Still, great project. Ditto on the schematic.

    • http://www.jpixl.net John Edgar Park

      Yes, good point, and actually, Niklas said as much on his blog post, I just didn’t quote the entire paragraph: “But still, from an economic point of view it makes sense that Eyetoys
      weren’t the ultimate controllers of thirty-something years ago, as a
      video camera was probably very hard to afford back in the days.”

  • Tim Kemp

    I was developing video tracking products that were pretty similar to this in the early 80s.  You’d be surprised how much a “cheap” black and white video camera cost back then.  Also an AVR has a lot more processing power than the 8 or 16 bit microprocessors of that period.  I really doubt that Atari could have come up with anything even close to this for a price that anyone would have paid.

    This is a cool project though and makes me a bit nostalgic.