Delightful Nerds Turn A Car Into A Functional Computer Mouse

Illustration for article titled 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.

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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.

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

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)

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DISCUSSION

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Jim Drivas

Wow...an Apple Lisa computer. I still have 3 Lisa’s in my basement circa 1985. They have a 10Mb hard drive and 1 Mb RAM. They were originally $10,000 when they were introduced. A dot matrix printer was included with the computer. It actually beat the Macintosh to market by 6 months. I bought mine back in 1985 for $7000. I used that computer everyday in my work until I retired in 2003. Never failed me.