The 400 horsepower device

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When web development reached critical mass in the early-mid 2000's, there was a lot of discussion about what it all meant for native development and apps that are optimized for devices, but developers' penchant for exploiting what devices can do has persisted through all of that, and it keeps getting more interesting with every passing year: devices are smarter, faster, and more packed with features than ever before. Gone are the days when developers had to wait patiently for hardware to catch up to software. Now it's the other way around, and it's great for developers, who just can't seem to get enough of cameras, accelerometers, location sensors, touch screens, gesture inputs, voice inputs, and a bevy of other previously-unheard-of coolness.   Even Steve Jobs got an education in this undercurrent as Apple brought the iPhone to market ... if you've read Walter Issacson's book, you know the story: Jobs was of course maniacal about user experience, and was adamantly opposed to the idea of third-party developers messing things up with native apps. Subsequently, the iPhone comes to market with a lot of fanfare about Safari and web mobility, but once developers understood what the device could do, it began a mini-standoff that resulted in a November 2007 capitulation blog post, promising developers an SDK for iPhone and iPod Touch. The rest, of course, is history.

Since then, we've seen the term "device" take on all sorts of different meanings ... most people think of it as a smartphone, or a PC, or a tablet, or a game console to name a few form factors, not to mention the embedded world of ATMs, traffic lights, and sensor networks.  But anything with a microprocessor can run software, and as things get smaller and more modular, the sky's the limit in terms of developer creativity and imagination, which brings us to today's post. Jeff Sandquist and the Channel 9 team have been busy with a project that we've talked about since September, and for lots of folks, it will reshape how you think about what a device is, where it goes, how it gets integrated into things you use today, and (in this case) how amazing it can be when it's done right Smiley.

Thanks – Tim 

See the Project Detroit Infographic

Those of you who attended or watched BUILD last September may recall a project that Dan, Clint and I have been working on with the guys at West Coast Customs. Against the odds, and perhaps against our better judgment in terms of sleeping hours, we set out to see what was possible when you combine some of the world's most innovative technology, the latest in cloud connectivity and raw American auto muscle. What would it look like if you could take Windows, Windows Phone, Windows Azure, Xbox, Kinect, Bing - you name it - and put it all together into one iconic car?  Well, we're excited to announce that the experiment is complete and "Project Detroit" will be unveiled to the world this Sunday, March 25 at 9:00 p.m. PT/ET on Discovery's Velocity Network.

To say that this has been a labor of love is an understatement. To do this right we knew that we needed to work with the best and the only option was West Coast Customs. Along with Ryan Friedlinghaus and his crew, we started with a 2012 Mustang, retrofitted it with Dynacorn's 1967 Mustang fastback replica body. From there, we piled on Microsoft's latest technologies, many of which have never been used in automotive applications. We created heads-up displays with augmented reality in the windshield. We put a Kinect on the front and a Kinect in the rear for skeletal tracking and live streaming video feeds. We added swipe-able touchscreen dashboard displays and then we tied it all together with Windows Azure in the cloud and Windows Phone applications to control it all. And that's just the beginning.

Generic Episode Image
(want a really big version of this picture? It makes a great desktop background Smiley )

To really understand how it all came together, you have to watch the episode, but to give you just a taste, here are some of the things you can expect to see: 

  • Windows Phone Integration: Although the Mustang's design makes the car easy to spot, you can keep tabs on the car's location even when it is out of sight. Locate, unlock, and start the car all from the Viper SmartStart app for Windows Phone.
    Generic Episode Image
  • Built-in WIFI: To help ensure the Mustang is always online and connected to the cloud, the vehicle has a built-in 4G wireless network that supports multiple devices.
  • Digital Instrument Cluster: Swipe the touch-screen instrument cluster and toggle between different dashboard skins including a 1967 Mustang, a 2012 Mustang and a Windows 8 Metro design style version.
    Generic Episode Image
  • Heads Up Display: Similar to what's found in fighter jets, the windshield contains a driver side and passenger side heads-up display (HUD) highlighting telemetry and Bing Maps information directly on the windshield. View nearby restaurants, shopping centers and gas stations all without taking an eye off the road.  A passenger can play Xbox on his/her side of the windshield without distracting the driver.
  • Ford SYNC: Up-to-the-minute traffic information, hands-free communication and even voice control applications are part of the standard Ford SYNC system that is available in Project Detroit.
  • Entertainment System: The entertainment system comes with an Xbox 360 and a Kinect. When parked, the rear windshield can actuate up to serve as a projector screen for playing movies or video games from behind the car.
  • External Audio System: The audio system acts as a public address system so you can speak into your phone and have the audio played through the car's external speakers. Using this system, the car also has customizable car horn "ringtones" that enable you to change what sound plays when the horn is honked.
  • Kinect Integration: Front and rear Kinect cameras provide a live video feed of surrounding pedestrians and objects. You can even watch and listen to the live audio and video stream from the Kinects remotely using a Windows Phone and send a message (see below) to the external audio system like "Hey skateboarders: stay away from my car."

    Generic Episode Image

  • Cloud Powered: Using the built-in wireless network, the Mustang is able to communicate with cloud services including Bing Maps, Viper's Smart Start system as well as store real-time telemetry data such as speed, location, RPM and fuel level in Windows Azure.
  • Customizable Rear Windshield: While driving, the rear windshield can serve as a customizable display system that can play video, show images and display custom messages, like "Stop tailgating me please" or something more, umm, colorful.

As a community of developers you might be saying, "that's great, but what does this mean for me?" We started this project because we knew it would be a challenging and fun way to show what all of these technologies can do in an environment like a car. So now we not only have an incredible Mustang "device" to showcase what we have done, we will be making source code for the major components of the project available on CodePlex in the coming weeks.

We want you to think BIG about the types of scenarios you can create. Think bigger – beyond the devices we hold in our hands, those that sit on our desks and the things that mount to our walls. We are so incredibly proud of this car, but we're even more proud of what it represents – ingenuity, creativity and some great demonstrations of Microsoft technologies in cool applied scenarios. Make sure you tune in Sunday, but in the meantime check out some photos and let us know what you think.  As you know, Channel 9 is all about community and Project Detroit is only as successful as you make it.  Get excited, download the code and create your own device powered by hardware and software.

– Jeff

The Discussion

  • User profile image


    Please bring it over to the UK for a gawk.

    Q: Is there anyway that we can log in to the car and check out what it's cameras and sensors are seeing?

  • User profile image
    Pete Mitchell

    Oh. My. God. WTF did you do to that car?

  • User profile image

    so, how often do you have to get out and get back in again?

  • User profile image

    Awesome,windows phone 7 and xbox + kinect played a prominent role in the car,oops sorry "smart car"

  • User profile image

    Great !

    Please post a video about this car which explains all the functionalities Smiley 

  • User profile image

    Isit better than idrive? I would not like to be in this thing when windows goes * up.

  • User profile image
    Gideon Agbeniga

    wow this is great if they even create the car real life then it will be awesome great job.

  • User profile image

    This is really cool. Now Microsoft just need to make sure they update Bing Maps. It is embarrassing that when in Dublin, I search for O'Connell Street in my WP7 and I am taken to somewhere in Nebraska. Had to install a gMap app to be able to get around here. Tsk, tsk  :S

  • User profile image

    , pinnecco wrote

    This is really cool. Now Microsoft just need to make sure they update Bing Maps. It is embarrassing that when in Dublin, I search for O'Connel Street in my WP7 and I am taken to somewhere in Nebraska. Had to install a gMap app to be able to get around here. Tsk, tsk  Perplexed

    That's funny. When I do a Bing Maps search on "O'Connel [sic] Street", I get taken right to Dublin. "O'Connell Street" also takes me to Dublin. I when I do a search on "O'Connell Street Nebraska", I get taken to "NE Oconnell Rd, Cameron, MO". Maybe you're on a different version of Bing Maps than everybody else because there doesn't seem to be any "O'Connel Street" or "O'Connell Street" in the state of Nebraska on the version of Bing Maps that I'm using.

  • User profile image

    the large image at is not loading completely

  • User profile image

    Too bad they had to use a wireless card for 4G because wp7 doesn't support 4G, and it doesn't support being a hot spot.

  • User profile image
    Lawrence Rachleff

    Too bad it's Microshaft instead of Apple.

  • User profile image

    Well an idevice would crash without letting you know. And the phone wouldn't be as pretty. Be prepared to be overtaken by this ☺

    And for the misinformed: Windows Phone allready supports 4G.

    Way to go Microsoft. With Windows Phone and Windows 8 Metro on a tablet Microsoft shows competition the giant is awake!

  • User profile image

    WP7 supports 4G (yes, LTE) and hot spots. Irwin thinks he's smart... fail.

  • User profile image

    Yea, if it was apple you would be forced to do exactly what they want you to do.

    Plus they will track you whereever you go.

    Man, apple sounds soooo much better than microsoft.

  • User profile image

    If you travel 2 years into the future this will be made by Apple, who will then start lawsuits against everyone associated with this project for stealing Apple's design. That and it won't work if your holding it wrong.

  • User profile image

    Awsome but please post the Discovery program on Channel 9, I have never heard of that paticular Discovery channel...

  • User profile image

    Please give MORE info on Head-up display!!! Smiley

  • User profile image

    your article is very good for me to read and are tbe excellent man.

  • User profile image

    A fee years ago there was a remake of knight rider with a mustang as kitt, this car is almost the same it seems.

  • User profile image

    When will that Viper Smartstart app be available to the general public?  Been waiting since it was announced last year.

  • User profile image

    Had to subscibe to VELOCITY CHANNEL to see "Inside West Coast Customs".  WTF didn't they take the car out for a test drive?  Hope there will be a Part II sometime soon..  Let Cliff take it for a spin!  Smiley

  • User profile image

    Looks great! I really enjoyed the integration work done on this car. I'm looking forward to your ODB2 code and listener.

  • User profile image

    "Project Detroit" will be unveiled to the world this Sunday, March 25 at 9:00 p.m. PT/ET on Discovery's Velocity Network."

    how may i see the video ?

  • User profile image

    Why did you pick a classic car? It looks ugly and stupid to see a muscle car like that one with neons. lol.... This is also something most people can't do. It would cost thousands to rig a car like that. Show the average folks what can be done within an average budget and stop spending money on bad design.

  • User profile image

    '67 body on 2012 Mustang.  Nice show, disappointing ending.

  • User profile image

    If you are still looking for a test driver in Germany, I would really love to do it Smiley I absolutely want that car! Of course I pick up the car wherever you want Smiley

  • User profile image
    Me First from Germany

    Nice one. Pretty nice.
    I'd like to have one with an android Tab buildt in and a PS3 for playing. :-)

  • User profile image

    Can we see this outside USA?

  • User profile image

    Do you plan to release the hardware as an open source? The code for Head up display is pretty useless without a proper hardware Smiley

  • User profile image
    Nathan Sloan

    I want one please

  • User profile image
    tom sala

    how can i get more details on the project, are there any sits that show more pictures on how you put the two cars together?

  • User profile image

    Interesting. Especially as my job is designing aftermarket diagnostic equipment for diagnostics & transponder key coding.

    For the phone to switch the car on automatically the car's electronics have been heavily modified (immobiliser ripped out). Making it a MS show point but not much more -being a specific project the hardware as open source woud'nt therefore make much point. Ie. Vehicle manufacturer's each have there own way of doing things!!!

    Interesting OBD dash pannel project -thats something people can play with esp. just buying an off-the-self OBD tool.

    Well done anyway :)

  • User profile image

    so if the car doesn't start correctly, do you just reboot it?

  • User profile image

    Bingo ! I am working on a similar project. May be recognized as a sibling of what are you guys working on right now. Well, I have got Nissan Altima for development purposes and using Kintect and the latest MRDS I want to make the car autonomous. But the main hurdle in my way is, I have no idea about how I'd Actually Command the car. And so if you have any clues on that, please help !

  • User profile image

    So when one or more of these devices blue screens, do you have to pull over? How do you drive when you need to reboot every MS device?

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