Computer scientist and self-described “computer scientist” “hardware hacker” Dr. Tom Tilley has turned a kid’s toy into a fully-functional arcade controller for classic arcade games like Sega’s Super Hang-On — thanks to a non-destructive modification involving a Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller.

“I found a Paw Patrol driving toy at a thrift/op shop,”Tilley describes the hardware as the heart of his mod. “Pups To The Rescue Driver,”A lumpy, plastic-looking object with motorcycle handles and functional mirrors. It was originally made to trigger sounds and lights when the buttons were pressed. “I decided to mod it to play the arcade racer Super Hang-On.”

This Paw Patrol toy is now able to control Sega’s Super Hang-On arcade racing car. (📹: Dr. Tom Tilley)

Tilley opened the toy and found plenty of space for additional electronics. Tilley had a potentiometer to read the handlebar movement, and a Raspberry Pico program to act as a USB controller linked to the potentiometer. Importantly, the modification does not require any destruction: Each button’s wires can be taken out of the Raspberry Pi Pico to be reconnected to their original control board. This will allow the toy to regain its noisy functionality.

With the Raspberry Pi Pico fitted, Tilley’s toy can be used as a controller on any device that accepts a USB joystick — including, to keep the theme running, a low-cost Raspberry Pi Zero single-board computer, which is powerful enough to emulate Sega’s Super Hang-On motorbike racing title.

More information is available about the build on Tilley’s Twitter thread.

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