Arduino Node.js RC Car Driven with the HTML5 Gamepad API
I started the project off by experimenting with reading raw data from USB joysticks, gamepads and racing wheels from the browser. This is a relatively easy task in browsers supporting the HTML5 Gamepad API:
I got the original code from Marcin Wichary who built it for the London Olympics Google doodle hurdles game. Yes, this doodle game supports any USB gamepad.
You might wonder why we need so much code in that gamepad.js file if all the joystick raw sensor data is available in
navigator.getGamepads. Well, it handles feature detection, event listening for connection/disconnection and a fix for Chrome which doesn’t fire gamepad events.
After gamepad.js is loaded and initialised the gamepad object is filled with the sensor data:
Once the steering wheel and pedal control data is filtered and compiled into a JSON object it’s ready to be sent to the car. In the background we are running a Node.js server which connects everything together.
node index.js will start the server up and serve index.html at the localhost:8080 url. After that we initialise the Web Socket which creates a real-time connection between the browser and the server. With web sockets you could actually connect multiple users and browsers together to create multiplayer games for example.
Setting up the web socket and sending a message from the browser and receiving it from the server is really easy:
After this magic happens in Node.js. We establish connection with the Arduino microcontroller board that is connected to the USB port. This is something you would never be able to do from the browser without a third-party plugin due to security reasons.
The write function needs to go inside the socket on connect and socket on message functions so our message to the Arduino is the JSON object we received from the browser through the web socket.
The RC car
The work has started off by taking out the original radio and motor drive modules and the antenna from the car. I was left with two motors, one for steering and one for acceleration, and the plan was to rebuild the whole architecture using Arduinos. I succeeded and the motors are now driven with a powerful H-bridge module (L298n) and the wireless connection is handled by two nRF24l01 antennas. The Arduino and the motors are both powered from the original 6V battery pack (4xAA).
The onboard Arduino Nano receives wireless messages from the Arduino UNO connected to the my Macbook Pro which is the one communicating with the Node.js server and the browser.
There are so many parts of this projects that are really exciting and interesting and parts that are a little bit more difficult to fully implement. So please let me know and leave a comment if you want me to create and extended tutorial on this project!
I’m also planning to improve the car by installing an onboard wireless camera, a more powerful RC battery pack and maybe a few more sensors or lights.