Friday, January 30, 2009

Design Challenge #1: Auto air hockey opponent using Wiimote

Way back when I was an undergrad some friends of mine created a really cool design project - an automated air hockey opponent.  They hung a B&W camera above the table so it had full visibility of the playing field.  They were only students so they actually had to create the table from scratch using a sheet of masonite with a million (not really - but I'm sure it felt like it!) hand-drilled holes to let the air through, and a blower vac.  Instead of using a white table, they made it black and they used a white puck too.  Here's the cool part.  They built a PC (ISA) card with some electronics on it that measured the voltage of the incoming video signal.  As the scan line passed over the puck, they would 'see' the voltage blip on the video signal and by keeping track of the video sync signals, they could get a pretty good idea about where the puck was in 2D space.  The rest was up to the PC to take those blips and crunch the numbers to track the puck's path and move a huge big whacker that was the automated opponent.
That was all back in 1994 but I want to pose a new challenge.  How about putting an IR LED on the puck and using a wiimote to track it.  Thanks to Johnny Chung Lee's contributions (and others) accessing Wii signals is pretty simple.  So all it takes is a bit of motivation and maybe a spare weekend. Let me know if you decide to give it a go.

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