Project Motivation

This project is a collaboration between  izzylink and bhasudha(me), for the course 'Things That Think' (CSCI 7000) at The University of Colorado - Boulder, Fall 2012.  This project was completed in the limited timetable of 4 weeks, however if this project was recreated it would take about a week or two to complete.  

We wanted to create an interactive diorama that can be used to educate kids, through something they love - Games. We came up with the idea of an interactive map to make learning about places more fun. This interactive game is similar to a treasure hunt. The player collects voice clues to navigate from start to target. We named this project "Scout", in the spirit of the exploration of a treasure hunter. We believe that scout is fun to play and its rich ,interactive medium helps kids learn a lot more information.

About the Game

The map highlights the popular places, "landmarks", across the United States.  It is played by starting at one of these landmarks (Seattle in our game) and listening to voice instructions before traveling to the next landmark.  Cool facts are also played as the player is traveling, teaching them about the places they are going through or visiting.  Different vehicles (or player objects) are available for traveling to each of these landmarks.

Game Rules

1. Begin at the starting landmark.
2. Move over the pressure sensors, collect voice clues and interesting facts at each point.
3. Use appropriate tools to navigate the map.  These are the player objects, and are miniature versions of different vehicles.
4. Obtain a visa, at the last landmark, to go to the next country.

Step 1: Overview

High-Level Design 

The map was printed on a large sheet of paper and mounted on a sheet of plywood for stability.

The game's landmark's and player objects were 3D printed and painted to look like miniature models.  We ended up using the Hollywood Sign, Space Center, Disneyworld, and the Statue of Liberty as landmarks and a boat, car, plane, and bus as player objects.

We integrated pressure sensors near each landmark and sometimes on the road between landmarks to add interactivity with the map.  When a player moves over these sensors, a sound clip will play, giving information about the place and instructing them on what to do next.

The map needs to be attached to an arduino to keep the sensors working, and in our project it also needs to be attached to a computer with speakers also.  We did not have enough time to research alternative methods of playing sound clips, so this was our solution for the time being.

Challenges We Faced

We faced this problem continually throughout the project.  When we printed the map, landmark objects, or player objects, we had size issues nearly every time.  Scaling each of these objects relative to one another was extremely difficult, since some 3D objects required a minimum size just to be printed, but we did not want to make any object too large for the map.  We will talk more about this problem in future steps.

Though this instructable focuses mainly on building the physical map, the instructions that are played to the player are still important, since that is when the project becomes a learning tool.  Choosing content that is age-appropriate, interesting, and brief enough to be played quickly is an important aspect that would need more work if this project is expanded further.

Choosing the correct form of sensor based on that type of traveling the player will do is important for the interactivity aspect of the map.  We had initially thought of buttons, infrared, RFID, and pressure sensors.  Buttons could be used in a lower-fidelity project, where a player would only need to press a button when they reach a landmark.  IR sensors would have been a good choice, giving the map more interactivity with the landmarks on the map, however they would have been difficult to implement, since each of the traveling object would have needed an ir emitter in them.  RFID sensors would have been ideal in this project, since they could have detected the proximity of a player's object when they were traveling to a landmark and would have been able to play quick facts based on there the player was traveling on the map.  We went with pressure sensors, which enabled us to quickly prototype, and still allow for interactivity within the map at multiple points.

Rest of this instructable talks more about the following steps:

1.   Design of Scout
2.   Materials and tools needed
3.   Setting the wooden board
4.   Printing and processing the 3D objects
5.   Building navigation tools
6.   Designing the navigation paths
7.   Making your own pressure sensors
8.   Building the circuit
9.   The arduino code in action
10. Java code
11. Content for voice instructions
12. Further extensions
13.  Let's Play

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