Monday, September 26, 2011

LED Cube Controller

Aside from building the LED cube, another major attraction is how the cube would be controlled. There has been a few discussions on what interfaces and controls should be used. We are hoping the cube can be usable (and playable) by students and any visitor at UAT. It all came down to 3 possible options.
  1. A Touch Interface
  2. A 3D Joystick
  3. XBOX Kinect Device

Touch Interface
The original plan for the project, a touch interface could be used to track fingers and map the coordinates with the cube. In order to allow full 3D tracking, the cube would require 2 touch screens. Ideally, 1 on the top face of the cube, the other on one of the side faces. The example above shows how an iPhone uses touch screen works. There are 2 conductive screens that are separated by a thin perforated non-conductive layer. When a finger presses the top of the screen, the conductors touch each other through the holes of the middle layer and map X and Y coordinates to the device. Several other touch screens use the same method.

There were some problems with this option due to some factors. Because of the side of the cube, not everyone, mainly kids, would be able to reach all corners of the touch screens. The cube should be accessible to everyone as well as keeping it ergonomic. Another draw back comes from any pending damages. If a screen were to break, it would take some time to replace the screen due to its cost. Another major flaw is the visibility of the cube with the screens attached on the sides. Although transparent touch screen would be used, it would still blur the quality of our presentation. Also, the user would have a difficult time viewing his/her interaction while controlling it.

3D Joystick
The second option for the LED Cube involved the use of a 3D joystick. Whether it be purchased or self made, a joystick provides accurate 3D tracking and control. The benefits of building a 3D joystick from scratch includes using inexpensive materials to build the device, the possibility of including accelerometers and gyro-sensors or potentiometers to the device, and avoiding the costly expense of purchasing an already built product.

It seemed to be the most plausible controller for the cube. A single dot can be moved and tracked within the cube with a 3D joystick. The problem with this controller is simply aesthetics. The project is meant to be artistic and easy to enjoy. Purchasing a joystick, like the one shown above, may be too big and bulky. Placement for the device would be crucial to the enjoyment and visibility of the LED cube. Building a joystick specifically for the cube could fit the aesthetic needs; however, the time developing a 3D joystick may push back the date for the completed finalized project. Other than that, joysticks have been overused and overdone. An awesome project should have a more interesting controller.

XBOX Kinect
In 2010, Microsoft launched the XBOX Kinect device for XBOX 360. They came up with such slogans as, "14 buttons replaced by you" and "You are the controller". The device uses 3 cameras to track movement and depth and use the data collected to allow wireless control of gamers' video games. For its release, the software development kit was released for programmers and game designers to use, prototype, and create games and applications. After the public release of device drivers for Windows, Mac, and Linux, many programmers and engineers have used the Kinect device to make several games and applications for PCs and have robots move or mirror movement.

Having such a device as a controller would be ideal for the LED project.

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