Computer scientist and self described “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 explains the hardware that is at the heart 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 It was originally made to trigger sounds and lights when the buttons were pressed.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 now has a new purpose: To control Sega’s Super Hang-On arcade-racer. (📹: Dr. Tom Tilley)

Tilley was able to open the toy to find plenty of room for extra electronics. Tilley found a potentiometer that could read the handlebars movement, and a Raspberry pi Pico programmed as a USB joystick controller. Importantly, the modification is not destructive: The wires connecting to each button can be removed from the Raspberry Pi Pico and reconnected to the original control board to restore noise 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.

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

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