Friday, February 24, 2012

The Wonderboy - Deconstructed

Last week, in my Interactive Exhibit Design course, we had a chance to play with Google SketchUp.  Of all the programs we have used so far, I found this the easiest to learn.  Not only is the program user-friendly, but Google provides some excellent tutorials for beginners and advanced users.  I used my class time to go though a Museum Exhibit Mockup Prof. Turkel provided.  I was going to include the one I made in class on my blog, but after looking at what Lindsay had done with her Immigrant's Suitcase, I knew I had to step-up my game a bit.

Some of you may remember my original idea for a "history appliance" - Wonderboy, the interactive baseball bat.  I used SketchUp to visualize how this exhibit might be set up in a museum.

*Bonus point to anyone who can figure out which famous home run is depicted in the projected images.
If you recall from my original idea, this exhibit allows you to experience what it would be like to hit a record-breaking home run.  Speakers in the batters helmet provide audio of the announcers and the roar of the crowd, while the images from the projectors put you on the field.

Using what I have learned so far in the class, brainstorming with my professor Bill, and some online research - I'm trying to figure out a way to make this mockup materialize.  I've decided to start with focusing on the batting helmet.  Since I want to be able to accomplish this with as few things wired together as possible, I would like to put most of the hardware in the helmet.

Starting with the Arduino which I've worked with before, I've been researching using a wave shield for the audio in the helmet.  The audio of the different home run calls can be loaded onto an SD card and put into the wave shield.  I can plug in regular headphones and plant one in each ear guard of the helmet.  I'm not 100% sure how I'm going to wire all these parts into the helmet yet, as I'm still working on getting one to hack, but I figure worst case scenario I can stick it all on top.  (At least while I'm working everything out!)

Next, I have been trying to figure out how to trigger the audio.  Originally, I was thinking that there would be something inside the bat that would sense the way a person was swinging and that would start the audio.  I also thought about the possibility of using a motion sensing input device like a Kenect (but I don't have one of those to play with!)  So I took the idea of the motion sensor, but on a much smaller scale.  As I was researching the wave shield I came across this tutorial to make a Halloween pumpkin:  

I started look a little more into motion sensors as input devices.  I thought if I could find one that had a narrow range and put it into the bill of the batting helmet, facing down, then it would sense when the batter moved their arms and the bat, but not wider movements in the periphery.  I found this High Performance Ultrasonic Rangefinder (cool name, right?)  I don't know enough about this technology to be sure that it would be sensitive enough to catch the arm swing, but not surrounding movements.  I'll have to look into it a bit more.

Add a battery pack to this set-up and all the hardware would be right on the helmet.  (I'm starting to think with all the cool stuff happening in the helmet, perhaps I should name my project something other than Wonderboy...but I don't know of any cool batting helmet names...)  I just need to gather a few more parts and start playing around!

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