Made On Earth — Real Cars, 8-Bit Frogs

Craft & Design

5th Avenue Frogger

In honor of Frogger’s 30th birthday, New York-based advertising creative director Tyler DeAngelo put a new spin on the classic video game. He calls it 5th Avenue Frogger, and it uses data on actual street traffic that the player’s frog must avoid in order to cross the street. To accomplish this, an internet-connected webcam transmits a video feed from over Fifth Avenue in New York City. The machine connects to the video feed, tracks the vehicles’ positions, and translates them into 8-bit vehicles driving along a virtual street. The game is housed within an arcade cabinet from the original version of the game, and it can be switched back into classic mode in case there’s too much traffic on the street.

DeAngelo worked with Ranjit Bhatnagar and Renee Lee, who helped bring his idea to fruition. Bhatnagar retrofitted the arcade cabinet with a PC, wrote the code for the new version of the game in C++ using the Simple DirectMedia Layer library, and used the OpenCV library to analyze the traffic video. Seamlessly integrating old and new technology proved to be the most challenging part of the build. Simply getting the old monitor to display the PC’s video signal required a custom circuit board.

While the game cabinet usually sits in DeAngelo’s office, he occasionally wheels it out onto the streets of Manhattan to let New Yorkers play. “I dramatically underestimated the challenges of maneuvering and powering an arcade machine on the street,” he says. “However, once we were able to get it running, the response was really positive.”

He doesn’t take all the credit, though: “I think what I did is similar to remixing a hit song. … I gave it a little tweak so that it’s fun to experience again in a new way.”

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Matt Richardson is a San Francisco-based creative technologist and Contributing Editor at MAKE. He’s the co-author of Getting Started with Raspberry Pi and the author of Getting Started with BeagleBone.

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