Designing and implementing an interactive experience that merges technology with tactile play.




Team Techtile is designing an interactive experience that merges technology with tactile play for the MuseumLab, a new maker space in the Children Museum of Pittsburgh. Our interactive installation piece will combine together the Children Museum's philosophy of "playing with real stuff" and the ETC's philosophy of "learn, work, and play." Using the central theme of play, and working with the middle school students in the space, our installation will foster curiosity in technology though tangible interactions.





Development Duration : 15 weeks


My Role : Technical Lead


Hardware Used : Arduino Unos, RFID Readers, NFC Tags

Software Used : Arduino IDE


The Experience : The installation is a set of Cubbies that host LED lights, which respond to interactions from the guest, via movable blocks.




The guests move the blocks around to garner change in colours. They then either try to figure out the logic that governs the lights and/or set personal goals and change the lights to their liking.


THE HARDWARE :

The installation consists of 16 self contained modules, that host an Arduino Uno, an MFRC22 RFID reader, a strip of RGBW LED lights. Modules in each column, coordinate through serial communication. The RFID reader get data from the NFC tags in the blocks, and controls the LED lights according to the block placed. If all the lights in a column are turned to the same colour, there is a special synchronized effect.




MY HARDWARE JOURNEY :

For this project, I have spent majority of my time learning technical skills I never had before. I am working with Arduinos, sensors and other electronics, the likes of which I have never used prior to this project. My job has been to plan, prototype and implement the hardware. I am also responsible for programming any sensors attached to the arduinos which provide input for the LED lights.




It took a lot of research, consultations with SMEs and a ton of experimentation and prototyping to get to a point where I could even begin the actual project. Understanding the electronics and hardware limitations was key, to make the installation robust and consistent.




So far, this has been a big learning experience for me. It has shown me that I can leanr anything if I put my mnd to it, not just superficially, but enough to make a full fledged, robust installation. At least that's the path it is on to be. Stay tuned to find out where it ends up.