Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hacking shoes for kids education (almost)

Code4Play is a hackathon that took place last Saturday in Milan. The goal was to hack old toys and recyclable material into innovative educational games. Many of the teams used Arduino and Raspberry Pi to give smartness even to the the simplest plastic toy.
The hackable toys

The project that I liked most is a game that teaches kids mathematical operations. It consists of a Raspberry Pi in a box, attached to a big four-pin piece of a block-building game. When you shake the box, it says something like "Compose the number... Six!". The game pieces represent numbers and mathematical symbols, and you have to match them on top of the box to produce the given number. The system is able to recognise every single block by the value of the resistance wired to it.

So, what did my team do? We decided to use a pair of FootMoov, a set of shoes with pressure and gyroscope sensors. They came together with an SDK for Unity, which we used as platform for the two games we developed.
Our team name and logo on a balloon. Many thanks to the girl who kindly drew it!
Unfortunately, we did not find inspiration for an educational game. Yet, we took this opportunity to create two games with this uncommon controller.
The first game is FlappyPong. It's like Pong, but you tap on the shoe to control one of the bars which jumps like Flappy Bird on every hit.
The second game was a bit different: on the screen you see the image of an animal and the morse alphabet. You have to use the front and back pressure sensors of the shoe as dot and dash to compose the name of the animal in morse code. Maybe a bit awkward to play, but it was funny to show at our presentation.
In the next post I will dig more into the technical details.

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