There is a slightly crazy inventor type, think a mix between Elon Musk and Willy Wonka. You are a burglar trying to hack into his computer, which has the strangest OS you’ve ever seen. The security seems based around children’s puzzles, the mouse pointer is an animated character, which you have to control with an old arcade style interface and everything is 80s themed.
The character and everything on the ‘screen’ are digital, while the interface and all the puzzles are physical, Arduino based. This project was presented at the HKU Exposure 2017. Some of the process can be seen in the blogposts that were written during the project, found here.
So, I’ve made a lot of progress since the last post. I’ve determined my narrative, my target audience and the overall style, all of which mesh really well together.
To begin: The story of the installation is that there is a slightly crazy inventor type, thing a mix between Elon Musk and Willy Wonka. You are a burglar trying to hack into his computer, which has the strangest OS you’ve ever seen. The security seems based around children’s puzzles, the mouse pointer is an animated character, which you have to control with an old arcade style interface and everything is 80s themed.
The underlying story is that our invertor CEO grew up in the 80’s fascinated by all things sci-fi and is actually looking for new employees for his company. The puzzles/security measures are actually tests that determine if you are smart, courageous and nimble enough to work for his company.
My target audience is children between 8 and 14, as they like to be competitive while actually being really bad losers. The installation allows them to compete on things like fastest run trough or figuring out the puzzles, without being able to truly fail.
I finished the first prototype for the interface, and I really like it. Now all that’s left is to add some LEDs behind the transparant sections and it’ll be truly ready!
So far, most of my project has been focused on the technological aspect of it, which for me makes sense. Why try and build something, design everything and find out later that it is not possible? So I decided to test the broad strokes of the tech first, seeing as that was also where my weakness lies; I’m not a great programmer or electronics specialist.
Now with the green light from the tech department (Oh hey, thats me!) the art department (Me again!) can get busy with the look and feel of the project. I have made a few style sketches for the digital part of the project, but none of them really resonated with me, so I decided to focus on the physical for a while. At first I experimented with a sort of bathymetric map feel, layering pieces of MDF to create platforms.
Later on I was fascinated by the look of Voronoi Diagrams, a mathematical way to divide a plane into specific regions based on points placed on the plane (and that’s how far my understanding goes… unfortunately). It’s also how they can make mock-ups of cells and soap bubbles for example. When you create a Voronoi Diagram and add the ‘levels’ found in bathymetry you can create an interesting visual, which is very attractive to some, fascinating to most and repulsive to a few. I believe the repulsion is related to trypophobia, as the people I spoke to who found the prototypes repulsive cited a feeling of unease at the holes, the idea of ‘something could be in there’.
While I do not want anybody to be repulsed by my project, the idea of something being in the holes was fascinating and led to the next experiment, by adding characters and decoration to borders structured like a Voronoi, but larger than I have used before, to avoid triggering the trypophobia. This led to a narrative that I hadden’t considered before, namely one of exploration, strange planets and creatures. I’ll show the results in the nest post. I have not yet decided on a definitive course, but I feel like I’m getting closer and closer every time!
After having spent the first few weeks thinking and conceptualizing I started prototyping a few weeks ago. After a few setback and a few wins I am back here to tell you what I’ve been doing.
I wanted to prototype one of the puzzles I want to incorporate into my project. I decided to begin with the most difficult one, the keypad – binary puzzle. In this puzzle you have to solve the binary code presented on a LCD screen to get the code for the keypad, which deactivates a digital hurdle. The difficulty in this puzzle was mainly in the programming, as I am not a very good programmer. I wanted the puzzle to generate a random 4 digit code, translate that into binary and then check if the entered code is correct or not. If it’s correct it should play a ‘correct’ melody on the buzzer, display a message on the LCD and send a signal to the computer that the puzzle is solved and after that cycle to a new password in preparation of a game reset (for the nest player). If the password is incorrect it needs to play a ‘incorrect’ melody and display a message on the LCD.
This was quite complicated, but eventually I managed to sort out the code, except for one little thing. I have a 16×2 LCD screen, exactly big enough to fit the 4 numbers in binary, but for some reason, it does not want to display the second half of the string on the second line. The exact same code, not embedded in the rest of the puzzle works fine, but as soon as I introduce it to my main code it fails. I will be asking people more skilled than me in electronics and programming to hlp me solve this mystery as I have been banging my head against this wall for over two weeks.
The biggest win was that my lazy solution for the Arduino-unity link worked perfectly and saved me a huge amount of time and headache. I bought an Arduino Leonardo, as it is HID compatible (meaning computers can read it as a keyboard). This made programming in unity so easy as I can just have the Leonardo output a letter when a puzzle is solved and have unity respond to Input.GetButton.
So in short I can just add more puzzles to the Leonardo and they will communicate flawlessly with unity. Oh and I made a very simple three button interface for people to control the character.
The sheer time I spend on the tiny problem of the LCD screen was not worth it, I should have paid closer attention to how much time I can afford to spend on these kinds of problems.
Prism is an alternative controller that allows you to play games and other interactive modes by touching and moving the triangular game pieces. Each triangle contains three ‘pixels’ which you can control though tapping on the glass or changing the position of the triangles in relation to each other.
The mother triangle controls the connection to the application with which you can select game modes and find all the support for the game you are playing.
The first game mode we are presenting is PrismLab. You play an aspiring mad scientist in the field of TriChemistry who learns how to create new elements by manipulating and combining the triangles.
The triangles were developed using open source hardware, mounted on a hand-etched circuit board.
So, I’m starting my graduation now and will be posting regular updates on the project. Perhaps I should tell you quickly what I’m about to do.
I want to build a physical 2D platformer-type level on a wall, in 2,5D, completely white. Then I’ll get a projector and project the interactive elements such as the player character and the colors and details over the white 2,5D level. To finish it all of I want to build physical obstacles into the level, which you have to manipulate before you can continue playing.
Sounds very complicated, it is slightly complicated but I hope I will be able to present a nice graduation project in June. If you want to stay up to date with this project check back in a few weeks, as I’ll surely have an update for you then!
With a team I created an interactive light-up table, which we presented at the Hannover Makerfaire. You can view a recap here, our project is presented from 19:17 (Unfortunately the video is unembeddable).
A game made for the JamToday gamejam. We won both the public and jury award! The game was made for the oculus rift, it was designed to help people relax before sleeping. The point of the game was to change the chaotic elements of the world by focussing on them, and then letting them go. A car could transform into a tree for example.
We wanted to create a correlation between what you do on a screen and what you We wanted to create a correlation between what you do on a screen and what you do in the physical world. So you had to jump your character all around the pyramid to be able to reach the top, and you do in the physical world. So you had to jump your character all around the pyramid to be able to reach the top, and you had to run after it, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to see where you were going or what you were doing.
You played as a god, battling other gods for supremacy in a ‘king-of-the-hill’ type match. But on an actual hill.
You can find the full video with sound HERE.