Great question! While both can be used to build your escape room technology, we designed the Bad Ass Controller to solve several key problems we frequently encountered when using Arduino-based controllers.
At the core, both are surprisingly similar devices – both the Arduino and the Bad Ass Controller are based on industry-standard Atmel microcontrollers.
Arduino microcontrollers are generic control devices designed to be used in a wide variety of DIY projects. They operate at a low voltage – typically 3.3V or 5V – and have pin connectors designed for temporary breadboard assembly of circuits. While they offer a great deal of flexibility, the responsibility is on you as the user to design circuits to integrate them with other devices you want to control and to write software implementing your game logic using C++ or a similar programming language.
The Bad Ass Controller builds on this foundation. We designed it to be a turnkey approach, and the BAC improves on the Arduino for escape room use in several ways:
- The BAC can be configured to run most common escape room game scenarios right out of the box, no programming required. Our easy-to-use configuration tool, Bad Ass Manager, makes configuring game behavior an easy point-and-click operation.
- The BAC comes with a built-in Ethernet port and integrated support for common escape room software platforms, allowing custom game logic and easy integration with other sound/lighting/gameplay elements. Adding network support to an Arduino requires extra costly hardware and time-consuming software development.
- The BAC uses industrial screwdown connectors that ensure a safe, secure connection. Loose or poorly soldered wiring is one of the top causes of unreliable escape room props.
- The BAC uses higher voltages (12V or 24V DC), which better withstand long wiring runs. 3.3V or 5V signals like those generated by an Arduino are not intended to travel more than a few inches from the circuit board and are unsuitable for long in-wall wires.
- BAC inputs and outputs have extensive protection against electrical faults, protecting your controller in case of wiring mistakes or transient electrical noise. Most Arduino boards have no protection and the controller can be easily damaged by electrical noise.
- The BAC includes high-current driver circuitry and multiple relay suitable for controlling magnetic locks, which are commonly used in escape rooms. Arduino boards require additional modules and custom wiring to control locks.
We love the Arduino platform, and in fact many elements of the BAC are inspired by its foundation. (In fact, the BAC can actually be used as a fancy Arduino for complex projects, so please reach out to us if you’re interested in that option!)
But our years of experience building escape rooms have taught us there are many challenges encountered when using Arduino devices as the core of an escape room, and we’re proud to have solved many of them with the BAC.
While the upfront investment may be a bit more expensive, we’re confident the time you save by using our products will pay for itself many times over by helping you get up and running faster and by keeping your games reliable over the lifetime of your experience.