What are you building?
At the FIGMENT Festival on Governor’s Island, New York City, on June 9–10, 2012, we unleashed Brain Pong—the classic pong video game on a giant 6 foot by 8 foot display, controlled by players’ minds. Now we want to finish it and make it even better and more awesome for Come Out & Play After Dark and World Maker Faire 2012 in New York.
Participants interact with the installation through our NeuroSky MindWave headsets. These devices monitor brainwave activity, which we then channel to pit the players against our artificially intelligent Pong opponent.
The future is here, and it’s awesome.
So, how does this work?
Our EEG headsets monitor players’ brainwaves through their skin—no brain implants required. The headsets feed the signal into a program that separates them into “meditation” (low-frequency) and “concentration” (high-frequency) waves.
The player’s pong paddle runs on “concentration” waves. If he or she loses focus, the paddle stops moving and the AI opponent will win. Our AI doesn’t gloat, though, we feel that the public shame of losing is painful enough.
Is this real?
Absolutely. Our prototype Pong game runs on an Arduino LoL Shield, which uses a small 9×14 grid of LEDs. We even took it on the road to the Westport Maker Faire, where we had dozens of players of all ages.
And you’re building a Jumbotron version?
While the prototype is awesome, we’re firm believers that more is more. We’re building a huge display that consists of bright white LEDs—our current budget is for 192 of them—mounted on a custom printed circuit board. The lighting will be controlled by electromechanical relays, so there’s an old-timey clickety-clack noise as the ball moves across the screen.
We presented a mostly functional version of the big board at the FIGMENT Festival on June 9–10 on Governors Island, New York, and it was featured in the New York Times. Now we want to get all the 192 LEDs working, have them controlled by click-clack relays, and make a multiplayer version of the game where two players can face off against each other in a contest of competitive concentration. We will roll it out again at Come Out & Play After Dark @Seaport on July 13 ahead of the big launch at World Maker Faire New York in September.
Where is the money going?
We’re raising money for LEDs, custom circuit boards, relays to control the lights, wiring, construction materials and other components. We’re just looking to get some help with material costs — Hack Manhattan members will volunteer their labor, and our members have already committed to funding a portion of the budget.
If we raise more than $1,500 after the cost of rewards, we will expand the project to make the Brain Pong experience even better: lots more (and brighter) lights and additional EEG headsets so several people can play simultaneously.
We’re a hackerspace — a community space for smart and curious people to come make stuff, learn, and use tools that are too big, expensive, and dangerous to keep at home. We’ve got MakerBot and RepRap 3D printers, two sewing machines, a mini mill, a CNC desktop mill, soldering irons, hand tools, electronics supplies, a vertical garden, a beehive (with bees) and a fridge stocked with our homebrew beer. If you’re in the Union Square neighborhood on Tuesday evenings, come say hi!
Hack Manhattan is a New York not-for-profit corporation established in October 2011. We are registered as a New York charity. Our application for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status is currently pending with the IRS. If it is approved, your contribution (less the fair value of your reward) may be tax deductible in the United States. We will update backers on the status of our application.
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