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Microprocessor Interfacing Course

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Jason Z


Microprocessor Interfacing Course

The course that I am taking this semester is all about how to interface a microprocessor with external sensors and signals, and there is a final design project required at the end of the semester that uses the microcontroller board that is required for the course. We need to propose the project topic, and what it would be used for. The processor itself is a Freescale HCS12, which I am actually already familiar with (thankfully...).

So I have been kicking around a few ideas about what to do for my project that would be interesting, and is still 'finishable' with a team of 3 or 4 people. Most of my classmates have been talking about robotic type projects using various sensors and actuators, but I really wanted to tie this into my computer graphics interests and knowledge. After some thinking I came up with the following two ideas:

1. Create a small scale video game console, requiring input acquisition, with sound and video otuput. Sounds interesting, but throughput of the processor could be an issue (only 25 MHz clock!)

2. Create a scaleable rendering pipeline out of several of these processor boards. This one would essentally create a FULLY programmable rendering pipeline, and could eventually be made to automatically incorporate multiple separate processors to perform vertex shader, pixel shader, raster output, and so on. The input to the array of processors would likely just be a serial port from a host PC, with the output images either written to an NTSC video output signal or back to the PC via some interface (bandwidth for the output signal to the PC could be troublesome...)

Of the two, I would like to work on #2 a bit more. It is really not a practical thing, but would be a good learning experience I'm sure. It could even implement a subset of one of the graphics API's as well, assuming we could get enough time.

Anyhow, that is what I came up with. Does anyone still reading this have any feedback on these ideas, or something even more interesting? I'd love to hear what you guys think about it...
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I just took a course kinda like that, the topic was Smart Sensors and we programmed a PIC24. It *was* a robotics-kinda-thing: using 2 laser beams and a PSD (a sort of primitive camera) it would analyze and characterize a surface (think height map). Of course, something more game-related could focus a lot more on the actual sensors and peripherals than relying on internal programming, we had lots of neat stuff like automatic calibration and POST, but the professor didn't care about that... he wanted to see how we handled the input and output really :)

So with that experience I'd go with something more like a gaming gadget than a gaming system, such as a joystick with force-feedback or something a bit more... whacked :P

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Even with #1, you'll have a lot of room to decide the graphics features and the like. I think they'd be effectively the same amount of work, except that #1 will be more impressive to the great unwashed.

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Thinking of the assignment... first impression is that #1 is probably more likely to satisfy the requirements.

Learn the USB specification and create something to output to those desktoys that fire foam rockets. The input would be some sort of game controller thing to control where you shoot the rocket [grin]

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I was thinking of developing my own low spec games console as a new hobby project, going to have to keep tabs on how you get a long ;)

I think #2 sounds like a really awesome idea. Once you've got a working one up and running it'll be easy for your team of 3/4 to put together 3 or 4 more to daisy chain.

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