Delightful Nerds Turn A Car Into A Functional Computer Mouse

Artist and maker of gloriously shitty robots Simone Giertz owns a 1980s Sebring-Vanguard Citicar—a wonderful, slow, little wedge-shaped automotive footnote. Keeping true to her ideals, Giertz’ car is no longer just a little electric commuter vehicle—it’s also the world’s largest and perhaps least-useful computer mouse.

With the help of William Osman, the car has been merged with a normal, boring optical mouse so that the process of driving the car around is translated into mouse directional information that is fed into a computer via a normal USB port. To click, you just honk the Citicar’s horn.

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Here’s a video with a bit more detail on how this triumph was achieved:

Essentially, here’s what they did: the lens of the optical mouse was changed to allow it to view the ground below the car for motion data, and an Arduino single-board microcrontroller is used to translate that data to be sent to the computer. However, because the car’s motion to the mouse will only look like vertical/Y-axis motion, a magnetometer is connected to act like a compass of sorts, and input horizontal/X-axis directional data.

The result, of course, is wildly impractical, but they do manage to use it to send an email and make a very crude drawing of the Citicar.

I don’t care how impractical it is, it’s fun. As someone who has also converted a car into a computer input device, I know this isn’t easy, and I’m not ashamed to say this is way more sophisticated than the crude game controller I made from an old Lancia.

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Also, it hardly needs to be said, but substantial Jaloprops to Simone there for driving that old Citicar around as her primary car.

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)