Turning the World’s Strangest Car into the World’s Most Impractical Computer Mouse
One of the best aspects of the maker movement is that it fosters creativity for the sake of creativity itself; Practicality is largely unimportant, and makers can build whatever they want without having to worry about silly concerns like usefulness. YouTubers William Osman and Simone Giertz have proven that again and again, and this week they do so by turning a car into the world’s most inefficient—yet entertaining—computer mouse.
That car isn’t just any old economy sedan, but Giertz’s completely electric Commutacar which was built sometime around 1980. That makes the odd little car one of the first electric automobiles to be produced in large numbers, with more Commutacars being built than even the Tesla Roadster. But, turning the quirky little two-seater into a computer mouse was more challenging than simply taping a mouse to the bumper.
Osman started with a PS/2 optical mouse, and immediately had to deal with the first challenge: how to make it work from a distance. That required the removal of the standard optical lens, which was then replaced by a camera lens with a much further focal point. The other major challenge was how to make the mouse pointer move horizontally — something cars aren’t generally designed to do.
That necessitated the use of a magnetometer (basically a compass), which works with an Arduino Pro Micro to change the vector of the mouse input. With that in place, the direction the car is traveling is used to determine which way is forward for the mouse cursor. It’s cumbersome, but Osman and Giertz were able to type out an email with the setup. If you’re being generous, Giertz was even able to draw a likeness of the Commutacar with it.