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Guest Leo Zelig

Throttle - Interface / Exercise Possibilities!

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As I sit in my comfy cockpit following a day in my comfy office chair, pondering the limits of executive spread and whether I'll be able to FIT in my cockpit in five more years, I decided I better draw the proverbial line in the sand. Exercise and less junk food is the order of the day. Heck, I want to live to see what the future of flight simming (or plain old flight, for that matter) has to offer in 2034.But I hate to exercise. HATEI was thinking, why do I dislike exercise so?It's b-o-r-i-n-g. Problem - how to make exercise interesting and motivatingSolution - combine it with one of my passions - flightStick with me here: Imagine taking an exercise cycle, the sit down style. Then mount a joystick for directional control and interface the throttle value to a device that reads the speed of your pedaling. Now hook this up to Combat Flight Simulator (I feel agressive when I exercise :) ) or whatever your favorite sim is and go fly.There was an arcade game a few years ago called PropCycle that worked similarly to this.I can't think of anything more motivating than chasing Zeroes over the Pacific. The faster you'd pedal the faster you'd go.I was thinking about the best way to interface cycle speed to the throttle. It seems to me there are two paths(probably more) to take:1. Somehow convert the motion of the wheel to a mechanical motion on a potentiometer - literally twisting or sliding the pot - this one's got me stumped.2. Design a circuit that senses the speed of the wheel (via hall effect sensor?) and converts that info into a resistance that I could substitute for an existing pot on a USB controller. 2b. Convert the wheel speed into a voltage or current if that's what the controller will accept instead of a resistance value. - a variable resistance is all I'd need - and I could cannibalize a USB joystick for the PC interface half.I'm fairly handy with a soldering iron, but I know I'm way out of my league on this one!Any ideas out there guys?I'd feel a lot better about the hours I spend in my cockpit if I'd just spend a few minutes a day chasing bad guys on an exercycle...Chris

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Chris,I'm supposed to be working, but this is just too strange not to be a part of...If you have a spoked wheel on your exercise cycle, use an inductive proximity detector to measure the speed. This type of pick up is a zillion turn coil with a permanent magnet as a core. When steel moves near the coil, the magnetic field is disturbed and the coil outputs a pulse. Amplify and clip the output to produce a logic level pulse. Send the logic pulse to a monostable to stretch the pulse to about 90 percent of the shortest time period between spoke pulses. Send this stream of pulses through a low pass filter, then scale for 0 to 4.5 volts out. Build a Leo Lacava Baby Plasma USB interface. Connect speed signal to interface. Set up speed-USB axis as throttle.Run sim, pedal like hell, take pictures, post on AVSIM.If you're crazy enough to build it, I'm crazy enought to design the speed sensor.Mikewww.mikesflightdeck.com

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Y'know, my first reaction is "you've got to be kidding", but, hey I could stand to lose a few lbs (purely for CG reasons of course) and pedaling a SkyCycle around the pattern isn't such a whacko idea after all. I'm intrigued.The easy way to start is with most any cyclometer. The spoke magnet and sensor are all set up for you. Then "all" you need to do is convert RPM into an axis value for the throttle.Dave Blevins

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The history of flight is crowded with the wreckage of any number of man powered ornithopters which, in the real world, couldn't fly. Given our ability to 'tweak' the flight models in MSFS......"Heathrow Tower, Ornithopter G-ABCD on final at 15 knots....."Richard

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Thanks for the ideas. That's more response than I thought I'd get to this hare-brained scheme!Mike, thanks for your input - actually I pretty extensively browsed your site prior to posting the question, but I think this is a little unique - kudos on such a comprehensive library of ideas, links, and information!With your offer to help if I build the thing, I've got no excuse not to. And I'll thoroughly document the whole process for anyone else interested in doing it. I have to install kitchen tile this weekend - keep the wifey happy and willing to tolerate my obsession, dont ya know ;) - or I'd be out picking up parts tomorrow.When I read your reply Mike, I immediately had the same thought as Dave - why not use a bicycle odometer to provide the pulse? Just pull the magnet and pickup off the thing and work from there. Any thoughts on this?A couple other thoughts:If we just need a range of 0 to 4.5 vdc, why not get one of those bicycle headlight generators (you know the kind, flips down against the tire and drives a shaft producing voltage), figure out the range of voltage it would produce during use. Then either thru a variable resistor or voltage regulator, keep it down to the specified range?I read Leo Lacava's site, and am intruiged by the design (if just a little intimidated by the whole "programming" part of it). Is there a disadvantage to just modifying an existing USB controller? I must be oversimplifying this.Finally, physical contruction ideas:I don't own an exercise cycle yet, but I'm not sure I'll need or want to. I'm envisioning getting a cheap, used bike and cutting the pedal/sprocket assembly out of it. I can get a decent seat (high-back mower seat) locally for not much, and then build a frame to mount everything.I may initially use lumber for ease of construction and modification while testing, but after settling on dimensions and configuration will build it out of steel tube - I have access to a welder :).If I do cannibalize a bike to build it, how should I vary the resistance to pedaling? Haven't thought of anything there yet.Finally, I couldn't find an ornithopter (great idea, by the way Richard)in the file library, but I did find an ultralight gyrocopter that may be just the ticket - search on ugyro2.zipLet me know your thoughts. And thanks again for the help!Chris

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Richard,>The history of flight is crowded with the wreckage of any>number of man powered ornithopters which, in the real world,>couldn't fly. Given our ability to 'tweak' the flight models>in MSFS......or get flightgear and use the ornihopter thats already included.See link in my signature for downloads.Manuel

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Chris,There are any number of ways to go about sensing wheel speed. The choice will probably depend on what you have on hand. Magnets on the rim is a good one as is a generator. Because you don't need to deliver significant power from the generator, you could actually use a small permanent magnet motor. Optical pickups could work too. Let me know in a bit more detail what you plan to build and I can develop a list of suggestions. We can proceed from there.Some exercise cycles generate mechanical resistance by pressing a small roller (2 to 3 inch diameter) against the tire. The pressure comes from a spring.Mikewww.mikesflightdeck.com

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A bit more practical but (ahem) prosaic idea for you. You put on you walking or jogging shoes, and while walking/jogging the neighborhood you plan in your mind how you will solve a thorny flightsim problem.Actually, I like the idea of a pedal-powered flight sim. However, being a business man, I can assure you that the government safety police will require you to place airbags on the immediate flooring, say on a 6ft radius and safety bars around the unit. This, of course, is to protect you from falling off the bike and injuring yourself because of too much body english. (I don

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Finally a reason to dust off that rusty ol exercise bike!Jmig has a point. You need a way to adjust the effective range of the input speed. If Mike comes up with a speed sensor, I'm willing to mod the USB adapter code so that one pot axis input can be used to adjust the range for the throttle input. This way "old folks" like jmig can have a chance to keep those zero's off his six. :DI'm just waiting to see who's going to start this first so I don't end up being the naive gullible one here. ;)Since my wife has been threatening divorce if I don't exercise more I'm seriously considering using this "flying bike" setup with HOTAS support on the handle bars for sims like Mech Warrior where running IS the order of the day! I would then use the handles to control the Mech direction.Sorry but I think "flying" a bike is just too ETish for me as much as I loved that movie.Shouldn't we get our own "Home Exercise Simbike" forum or something for this?Cheers All.-Leo (freeborn)

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This has been a fun thread to read, and not completely nonsense either :)Anyway, I think the point above is a good one: go for a walk and do mental planning of stuff. I do that quite a bit - makes walking the dogs much less "boring" - thouhg the small hairy dudes usually figure out things to keep me from boring even without extra thoughts :)But it makes sense to go, take some fresh air and think about stuff - then the time is not "wasted" but rather you are likely to get new ideas.Tuomas

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Just coming up for air from the kitchen tile job (now that's some exercise!)I'll sum up all my replies to the various thread branches here. (I've always wondered: is it better forum etiquette to put up 3 reply posts, or try to keep the tree more vertical?)Mike, I'll certainly share more thoughts with you regarding the sensor as the project progresses. I'm leaning towards the generator just from the apparent ease of turning an RPM into a voltage... but optical sounds intruiging - no moving parts to wear out there. The roller against the tire sounds like it'd be easy to implement.hatrick, that's interesting! I didn't find that, but I did find a site about Atari's venture into this territory in the early '80s:http://atarihq.com/othersec/puffer/index.htmlJohn(jmig), your advice is well taken. My dog probably couldn't get pedaling down anyway, so he'd benefit from a walk more as well. Perhaps I'll begin some conditioning (walking) so I can ponder this project. I hear you about the RPM disadvantage, but aren't you old birds tougher? We'll equate this into heavier armor :-)Leo, thanks for the offer to help with the USB interface! I like your mechwarrior idea. Actually, I was considering applying the bike to a good racing game like Rally Trophy as well. It all hinges on the sensor/interface. I'll begin construction in several weeks once my punishment (floor tiling) is complete.Tuomas, I agree with you too. But there's no reason we can't do both. I think this has the potential to be an exercise machine that won't end up in a yard sale ;).Chris

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>I think this has the potential to be an exercise machine that>won't end up in a yard sale ;).Or it'll end up in EBay as an "FLIGHT SIM EXCERCISE CONTROLLER" and someone will.. um. I better shut up in this audience :^)Tuomas

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Well, I took some of the good advice and began exercising simply by getting out of the house and walking/jogging. So far I've taken eight pounds off my overloaded airframe, and that's a good thing.But I still want to do the sky-cycle throttle interface. After thinking through the construction challenges, I decided to look at purchasing a good base to build on instead of fabricating one from scratch.I found a recumbent (sit-down) exercise bike for $100, and brought it home yesterday. It's got a decent seat, adjustable tension, AND a computer to calculate speed and calories built in.I had some pictures to share, but the memory card in my camera is corrupted now. I'll try to get some up later so you can visualize it.Connected to the computer is a two wire plug that disappears down into the bowels of the thing. It must be a magnetic pickup of some sort. I'll try to use my meter to determine what the output is. I have no oscilloscope, and I hope my meter is both sensitive and fast enough to get some data.Making progress,Chris

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Instead of getting all excited about trying to interface the existing electronics, might I suggest a low tech solution?Mount a cheap bicycle speedometer to it and then remove the needle and attach a pot to the shaft. You can then set it up as your throttle and adjust it's range in FSUIPC. Might be easier than figuring out the output of the existing sensor.ChuckCYXU

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Chuck, I'd pondered that before too. A simple mechanical interface is appealing... but I wouldn't think the torque available from the needle would be great enough.Of course, I have been know to be wrong :)Chris

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