Some cool Crazy Golf Cart images:
OutRun Feature in June 2012 Car and Driver Magazine
Image by G A R N E T
PHOTO: ROBERT KERIAN
ARTICLE: JOHN PEARLEY HUFFMAN
Toe in to a new car’s throttle, and you’re asking a computer to send air and fuel into the engine. Computers mediate braking and steering and almost always decide when the transmission should shift gears. Cars are evolving into video games.
So, why not make a video game into a car? Specifically, give a vintage-1986 Sega OutRun arcade game some wheels and a motor and let the gamer drive the concoction through physical space. Think of OutRun as Gran Turismo’s great-grandfather, fulfilling the preteen dream of ripping through various landscapes in an exotic car. Today, its roofless, eight-bit Ferrari Testarossa looks stone-ax primitive; in 1986, it was high-tech rad.
Sega eventually ported OutRun to home gaming systems, but it first appeared as an arcade game. Canadian-born academic Dr. Garnet Hertz, 38, saw one of the old arcade versions in 2006. “That’s crazy, how large the cabinet is,” he recalls thinking. “It’s like a fake car.” Two years later, he bought an OutRun arcade unit via an internet group for 0, then paid 0 to ship its 800 pounds to Irvine, California, where he started tinkering.
CHASSIS: After experimenting with an ancient three-wheeled golf cart, Hertz secured support from UC Irvine’s Center for Computer Games & Virtual Worlds and bought a 2007 E-Z-Go powered by a 4.4-hp electric motor. Using parts from the frames of the golf cart and game cabinet, Hertz and his eight-student team built a custom chassis, moved the cart’s steering to suit the game’s center-drive position, and relocated two of the four 12-volt batteries from the back of the cart to the front. Their budget for the build? A thick 0,000.
WITH ITS HEAVY CABINET, the OutRun cart isn’t fast—top speed is just 13 mph. But it is disconcerting to drive, what with limited peripheral vision and the knowledge that, while those blocky, eight-bit graphics scroll down the screen, you’re actually moving.
THE ELECTRONICS AND THE SOFTWARE required the most exhaustive development. Two high-def digital cameras mounted atop the cart feed images to a flat-screen display (it replaces OutRun’s original monitor) and to an Apple MacBook Pro, which uses its video feed to detect real-world topographical features. The computer then determines where to place the horizon (in the game’s primitive 3-D perspective, players constantly chase the road’s vanishing point in the distance) and how to depict the road. The gamer/driver sees the road ahead of him on-screen, rendered in OutRun graphics with the real world above the game’s horizon. Original game music pumps through speakers located in the headrest.