An I/O controller for virtual pinball machines: accelerometer nudge sensing, analog plunger input, button input encoding, LedWiz compatible output controls, and more.

Dependencies:   mbed FastIO FastPWM USBDevice

Fork of Pinscape_Controller by Mike R

/media/uploads/mjr/pinscape_no_background_small_L7Miwr6.jpg

This is Version 2 of the Pinscape Controller, an I/O controller for virtual pinball machines. (You can find the old version 1 software here.) Pinscape is software for the KL25Z that turns the board into a full-featured I/O controller for virtual pinball, with support for accelerometer-based nudging, a real plunger, button inputs, and feedback device control.

In case you haven't heard of the concept before, a "virtual pinball machine" is basically a video pinball simulator that's built into a real pinball machine body. A TV monitor goes in place of the pinball playfield, and a second TV goes in the backbox to serve as the "backglass" display. A third smaller monitor can serve as the "DMD" (the Dot Matrix Display used for scoring on newer machines), or you can even install a real pinball plasma DMD. A computer is hidden inside the cabinet, running pinball emulation software that displays a life-sized playfield on the main TV. The cabinet has all of the usual buttons, too, so it not only looks like the real thing, but plays like it too. That's a picture of my own machine to the right. On the outside, it's built exactly like a real arcade pinball machine, with the same overall dimensions and all of the standard pinball cabinet hardware.

A few small companies build and sell complete, finished virtual pinball machines, but I think it's more fun as a DIY project. If you have some basic wood-working skills and know your way around PCs, you can build one from scratch. The computer part is just an ordinary Windows PC, and all of the pinball emulation can be built out of free, open-source software. In that spirit, the Pinscape Controller is an open-source software/hardware project that offers a no-compromises, all-in-one control center for all of the unique input/output needs of a virtual pinball cabinet. If you've been thinking about building one of these, but you're not sure how to connect a plunger, flipper buttons, lights, nudge sensor, and whatever else you can think of, this project might be just what you're looking for.

You can find much more information about DIY Pin Cab building in general in the Virtual Cabinet Forum on vpforums.org. Also visit my Pinscape Resources page for more about this project and other virtual pinball projects I'm working on.

Downloads

  • Pinscape Release Builds: This page has download links for all of the Pinscape software. To get started, install and run the Pinscape Config Tool on your Windows computer. It will lead you through the steps for installing the Pinscape firmware on the KL25Z.
  • Config Tool Source Code. The complete C# source code for the config tool. You don't need this to run the tool, but it's available if you want to customize anything or see how it works inside.

Documentation

The new Version 2 Build Guide is now complete! This new version aims to be a complete guide to building a virtual pinball machine, including not only the Pinscape elements but all of the basics, from sourcing parts to building all of the hardware.

You can also refer to the original Hardware Build Guide (PDF), but that's out of date now, since it refers to the old version 1 software, which was rather different (especially when it comes to configuration).

System Requirements

The new config tool requires a fairly up-to-date Microsoft .NET installation. If you use Windows Update to keep your system current, you should be fine. A modern version of Internet Explorer (IE) is required, even if you don't use it as your main browser, because the config tool uses some system components that Microsoft packages into the IE install set. I test with IE11, so that's known to work. IE8 doesn't work. IE9 and 10 are unknown at this point.

The Windows requirements are only for the config tool. The firmware doesn't care about anything on the Windows side, so if you can make do without the config tool, you can use almost any Windows setup.

Main Features

Plunger: The Pinscape Controller started out as a "mechanical plunger" controller: a device for attaching a real pinball plunger to the video game software so that you could launch the ball the natural way. This is still, of course, a central feature of the project. The software supports several types of sensors: a high-resolution optical sensor (which works by essentially taking pictures of the plunger as it moves); a slide potentionmeter (which determines the position via the changing electrical resistance in the pot); a quadrature sensor (which counts bars printed on a special guide rail that it moves along); and an IR distance sensor (which determines the position by sending pulses of light at the plunger and measuring the round-trip travel time). The Build Guide explains how to set up each type of sensor.

Nudging: The KL25Z (the little microcontroller that the software runs on) has a built-in accelerometer. The Pinscape software uses it to sense when you nudge the cabinet, and feeds the acceleration data to the pinball software on the PC. This turns physical nudges into virtual English on the ball. The accelerometer is quite sensitive and accurate, so we can measure the difference between little bumps and hard shoves, and everything in between. The result is natural and immersive.

Buttons: You can wire real pinball buttons to the KL25Z, and the software will translate the buttons into PC input. You have the option to map each button to a keyboard key or joystick button. You can wire up your flipper buttons, Magna Save buttons, Start button, coin slots, operator buttons, and whatever else you need.

Feedback devices: You can also attach "feedback devices" to the KL25Z. Feedback devices are things that create tactile, sound, and lighting effects in sync with the game action. The most popular PC pinball emulators know how to address a wide variety of these devices, and know how to match them to on-screen action in each virtual table. You just need an I/O controller that translates commands from the PC into electrical signals that turn the devices on and off. The Pinscape Controller can do that for you.

Expansion Boards

There are two main ways to run the Pinscape Controller: standalone, or using the "expansion boards".

In the basic standalone setup, you just need the KL25Z, plus whatever buttons, sensors, and feedback devices you want to attach to it. This mode lets you take advantage of everything the software can do, but for some features, you'll have to build some ad hoc external circuitry to interface external devices with the KL25Z. The Build Guide has detailed plans for exactly what you need to build.

The other option is the Pinscape Expansion Boards. The expansion boards are a companion project, which is also totally free and open-source, that provides Printed Circuit Board (PCB) layouts that are designed specifically to work with the Pinscape software. The PCB designs are in the widely used EAGLE format, which many PCB manufacturers can turn directly into physical boards for you. The expansion boards organize all of the external connections more neatly than on the standalone KL25Z, and they add all of the interface circuitry needed for all of the advanced software functions. The big thing they bring to the table is lots of high-power outputs. The boards provide a modular system that lets you add boards to add more outputs. If you opt for the basic core setup, you'll have enough outputs for all of the toys in a really well-equipped cabinet. If your ambitions go beyond merely well-equipped and run to the ridiculously extravagant, just add an extra board or two. The modular design also means that you can add to the system over time.

Expansion Board project page

Update notes

If you have a Pinscape V1 setup already installed, you should be able to switch to the new version pretty seamlessly. There are just a couple of things to be aware of.

First, the "configuration" procedure is completely different in the new version. Way better and way easier, but it's not what you're used to from V1. In V1, you had to edit the project source code and compile your own custom version of the program. No more! With V2, you simply install the standard, pre-compiled .bin file, and select options using the Pinscape Config Tool on Windows.

Second, if you're using the TSL1410R optical sensor for your plunger, there's a chance you'll need to boost your light source's brightness a little bit. The "shutter speed" is faster in this version, which means that it doesn't spend as much time collecting light per frame as before. The software actually does "auto exposure" adaptation on every frame, so the increased shutter speed really shouldn't bother it, but it does require a certain minimum level of contrast, which requires a certain minimal level of lighting. Check the plunger viewer in the setup tool if you have any problems; if the image looks totally dark, try increasing the light level to see if that helps.

New Features

V2 has numerous new features. Here are some of the highlights...

Dynamic configuration: as explained above, configuration is now handled through the Config Tool on Windows. It's no longer necessary to edit the source code or compile your own modified binary.

Improved plunger sensing: the software now reads the TSL1410R optical sensor about 15x faster than it did before. This allows reading the sensor at full resolution (400dpi), about 400 times per second. The faster frame rate makes a big difference in how accurately we can read the plunger position during the fast motion of a release, which allows for more precise position sensing and faster response. The differences aren't dramatic, since the sensing was already pretty good even with the slower V1 scan rate, but you might notice a little better precision in tricky skill shots.

Keyboard keys: button inputs can now be mapped to keyboard keys. The joystick button option is still available as well, of course. Keyboard keys have the advantage of being closer to universal for PC pinball software: some pinball software can be set up to take joystick input, but nearly all PC pinball emulators can take keyboard input, and nearly all of them use the same key mappings.

Local shift button: one physical button can be designed as the local shift button. This works like a Shift button on a keyboard, but with cabinet buttons. It allows each physical button on the cabinet to have two PC keys assigned, one normal and one shifted. Hold down the local shift button, then press another key, and the other key's shifted key mapping is sent to the PC. The shift button can have a regular key mapping of its own as well, so it can do double duty. The shift feature lets you access more functions without cluttering your cabinet with extra buttons. It's especially nice for less frequently used functions like adjusting the volume or activating night mode.

Night mode: the output controller has a new "night mode" option, which lets you turn off all of your noisy devices with a single button, switch, or PC command. You can designate individual ports as noisy or not. Night mode only disables the noisemakers, so you still get the benefit of your flashers, button lights, and other quiet devices. This lets you play late into the night without disturbing your housemates or neighbors.

Gamma correction: you can designate individual output ports for gamma correction. This adjusts the intensity level of an output to make it match the way the human eye perceives brightness, so that fades and color mixes look more natural in lighting devices. You can apply this to individual ports, so that it only affects ports that actually have lights of some kind attached.

IR Remote Control: the controller software can transmit and/or receive IR remote control commands if you attach appropriate parts (an IR LED to send, an IR sensor chip to receive). This can be used to turn on your TV(s) when the system powers on, if they don't turn on automatically, and for any other functions you can think of requiring IR send/receive capabilities. You can assign IR commands to cabinet buttons, so that pressing a button on your cabinet sends a remote control command from the attached IR LED, and you can have the controller generate virtual key presses on your PC in response to received IR commands. If you have the IR sensor attached, the system can use it to learn commands from your existing remotes.

Yet more USB fixes: I've been gradually finding and fixing USB bugs in the mbed library for months now. This version has all of the fixes of the last couple of releases, of course, plus some new ones. It also has a new "last resort" feature, since there always seems to be "just one more" USB bug. The last resort is that you can tell the device to automatically reboot itself if it loses the USB connection and can't restore it within a given time limit.

More Downloads

  • Custom VP builds: I created modified versions of Visual Pinball 9.9 and Physmod5 that you might want to use in combination with this controller. The modified versions have special handling for plunger calibration specific to the Pinscape Controller, as well as some enhancements to the nudge physics. If you're not using the plunger, you might still want it for the nudge improvements. The modified version also works with any other input controller, so you can get the enhanced nudging effects even if you're using a different plunger/nudge kit. The big change in the modified versions is a "filter" for accelerometer input that's designed to make the response to cabinet nudges more realistic. It also makes the response more subdued than in the standard VP, so it's not to everyone's taste. The downloads include both the updated executables and the source code changes, in case you want to merge the changes into your own custom version(s).

    Note! These features are now standard in the official VP releases, so you don't need my custom builds if you're using 9.9.1 or later and/or VP 10. I don't think there's any reason to use my versions instead of the latest official ones, and in fact I'd encourage you to use the official releases since they're more up to date, but I'm leaving my builds available just in case. In the official versions, look for the checkbox "Enable Nudge Filter" in the Keys preferences dialog. My custom versions don't include that checkbox; they just enable the filter unconditionally.
  • Output circuit shopping list: This is a saved shopping cart at mouser.com with the parts needed to build one copy of the high-power output circuit for the LedWiz emulator feature, for use with the standalone KL25Z (that is, without the expansion boards). The quantities in the cart are for one output channel, so if you want N outputs, simply multiply the quantities by the N, with one exception: you only need one ULN2803 transistor array chip for each eight output circuits. If you're using the expansion boards, you won't need any of this, since the boards provide their own high-power outputs.
  • Cary Owens' optical sensor housing: A 3D-printable design for a housing/mounting bracket for the optical plunger sensor, designed by Cary Owens. This makes it easy to mount the sensor.
  • Lemming77's potentiometer mounting bracket and shooter rod connecter: Sketchup designs for 3D-printable parts for mounting a slide potentiometer as the plunger sensor. These were designed for a particular slide potentiometer that used to be available from an Aliexpress.com seller but is no longer listed. You can probably use this design as a starting point for other similar devices; just check the dimensions before committing the design to plastic.

Copyright and License

The Pinscape firmware is copyright 2014, 2021 by Michael J Roberts. It's released under an MIT open-source license. See License.

Warning to VirtuaPin Kit Owners

This software isn't designed as a replacement for the VirtuaPin plunger kit's firmware. If you bought the VirtuaPin kit, I recommend that you don't install this software. The VirtuaPin kit uses the same KL25Z microcontroller that Pinscape uses, but the rest of its hardware is different and incompatible. In particular, the Pinscape firmware doesn't include support for the IR proximity sensor used in the VirtuaPin plunger kit, so you won't be able to use your plunger device with the Pinscape firmware. In addition, the VirtuaPin setup uses a different set of GPIO pins for the button inputs from the Pinscape defaults, so if you do install the Pinscape firmware, you'll have to go into the Config Tool and reassign all of the buttons to match the VirtuaPin wiring.

Committer:
mjr
Date:
Wed Feb 03 22:57:25 2016 +0000
Revision:
40:cc0d9814522b
Parent:
35:e959ffba78fd
Child:
59:94eb9265b6d7
Gamma correction option for outputs; work in progress on new config program

Who changed what in which revision?

UserRevisionLine numberNew contents of line
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 1 // NVM - Non-Volatile Memory
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 2 //
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 3 // This module handles the storage of our configuration settings
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 4 // and calibration data in flash memory, which allows us to
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 5 // retrieve these settings after each power cycle.
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 6
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 7
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 8 #ifndef NVM_H
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 9 #define NVM_H
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 10
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 11 #include "config.h"
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 12 #include "FreescaleIAP.h"
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 13
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 14
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 15 // Non-volatile memory (NVM) structure
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 16 //
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 17 // This structure defines the layout of our saved configuration
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 18 // and calibration data in flash memory.
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 19 //
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 20 // Hack alert!
mjr 40:cc0d9814522b 21 //
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 22 // Our use of flash for this purpose is ad hoc and not supported
mjr 40:cc0d9814522b 23 // by the mbed platform. mbed doesn't impose a file system (or any
mjr 40:cc0d9814522b 24 // other kind of formal structure) on the KL25Z flash; it simply
mjr 40:cc0d9814522b 25 // treats the flash as a raw storage space for linker output and
mjr 40:cc0d9814522b 26 // assumes that the linker is the only thing using it. So ito use
mjr 40:cc0d9814522b 27 // the flash, we basically have to do it on the sly, by using space
mjr 40:cc0d9814522b 28 // that the linker happens to leave unused.
mjr 40:cc0d9814522b 29 //
mjr 40:cc0d9814522b 30 // Fortunately, it's fairly easy to do this, because the flash is
mjr 40:cc0d9814522b 31 // mapped in the obvious way, as a single contiguous block in the
mjr 40:cc0d9814522b 32 // CPU memory space, and because the linker does the obvious thing,
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 33 // storing its entire output in a single contiguous block starting
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 34 // at the lowest flash address. This means that all flash memory
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 35 // from (lowest flash address + length of linker output) to
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 36 // (highest flash address) is unused and available for our sneaky
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 37 // system. Unfortunately, there's no reliable way for the program
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 38 // to determine the length of the linker output, so we can't know
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 39 // where our available region starts. But we do know how much flash
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 40 // there is overall, so we know where the flash ends. We can
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 41 // therefore align our storage region at the end of memory and hope
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 42 // that it's small enough not to encroach on the linker space. We
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 43 // can actually do a little better than hope: the mbed tools tell us
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 44 // at the UI level how much flash the linker is using, even though it
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 45 // doesn't expose that information to us programmatically, so we can
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 46 // manually check that we have enough room. As of this writing, the
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 47 // configuration structure is much much smaller than the available
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 48 // leftover flash space, so we should be safe indefinitely, barring
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 49 // a major expansion of the configuration structure or code size.
mjr 40:cc0d9814522b 50 // (And if we get to the point where we actually don't have space
mjr 40:cc0d9814522b 51 // for our ~1K structure, we'll be up against the limits of the
mjr 40:cc0d9814522b 52 // device anyway, so we'd have to rein in our ambitions or write
mjr 40:cc0d9814522b 53 // more efficient code for deeper reasons than sharing this tiny
mjr 40:cc0d9814522b 54 // sliver of memory.)
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 55 //
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 56 // The boot loader seems to erase the entire flash space every time
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 57 // we load new firmware, so our configuration structure is lost
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 58 // when we update. Furthermore, since we explicitly choose to put
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 59 // the config structure in space that isn't initialized by the linker,
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 60 // we can't specify the new contents stored on these erasure events.
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 61 // To deal with this, we use a signature and checksum to check the
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 62 // integrity of the stored data. The erasure leaves deterministic
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 63 // values in memory unused by the linker, so we'll always detect
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 64 // an uninitialized config structure after an update.
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 65 //
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 66 struct NVM
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 67 {
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 68 public:
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 69 // checksum - we use this to determine if the flash record
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 70 // has been properly initialized
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 71 uint32_t checksum;
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 72
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 73 // signature and version reference values
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 74 static const uint32_t SIGNATURE = 0x4D4A522A;
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 75 static const uint16_t VERSION = 0x0003;
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 76
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 77 // Is the data structure valid? We test the signature and
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 78 // checksum to determine if we've been properly stored.
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 79 int valid() const
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 80 {
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 81 return (d.sig == SIGNATURE
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 82 && d.vsn == VERSION
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 83 && d.sz == sizeof(NVM)
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 84 && checksum == CRC32(&d, sizeof(d)));
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 85 }
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 86
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 87 // save to non-volatile memory
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 88 void save(FreescaleIAP &iap, int addr)
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 89 {
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 90 // update the checksum and structure size
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 91 d.sig = SIGNATURE;
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 92 d.vsn = VERSION;
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 93 d.sz = sizeof(NVM);
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 94 checksum = CRC32(&d, sizeof(d));
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 95
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 96 // figure the number of sectors required
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 97 int sectors = (sizeof(NVM) + SECTOR_SIZE - 1) / SECTOR_SIZE;
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 98 for (int i = 0 ; i < sectors ; ++i)
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 99 iap.erase_sector(addr + i*SECTOR_SIZE);
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 100
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 101 // save the data
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 102 iap.program_flash(addr, this, sizeof(*this));
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 103 }
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 104
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 105 // stored data (excluding the checksum)
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 106 struct
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 107 {
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 108 // Signature, structure version, and structure size, as further
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 109 // verification that we have valid data.
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 110 uint32_t sig;
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 111 uint16_t vsn;
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 112 int sz;
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 113
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 114 // configuration and calibration data
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 115 Config c;
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 116 } d;
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 117 };
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 118
mjr 35:e959ffba78fd 119 #endif /* NVM_M */