PING Platform

An Exploration in Physical Computing

Archive for the ‘conceptual’ Category

Platform Overview

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The PINGplatform is a gaming platform, consisting of both hardware and software tools. Here are the basics.


The PINGplatform makes use of the Phidgets interface board. Basically, Phidgets are “…a set of ‘plug and play’ building blocks for low cost USB sensing and control from your PC.” The Phidgets interface kit makes it really quick and easy to interface with many kinds of sensors, provided they are designed to interface with it. They have quite a few sensors to choose from.

For the first version of the PINGplatform, our user interface is designed around 8 Sharp GP2Y0A02YK infrared distance sensors. These sensors are fantastically accurate, particularly within the limited range we’re interested in. So, why 8 sensors? Well, with 2 sensors at each corner, we can measure the distance from each corner along all 4 sides of the table. This allows us to track 2 points independently along each side of the table. That means we can allow for some relatively complex interactions.

There are two sensors at each corner, 1 sensing across each table edge.

There are two sensors at each corner, 1 sensing across each table edge.

The Phidgets kit abstracts all of the hard bits, providing a robust API for working with sensor data in just about any language you might want. Which leads us to the software…


Our software platform will be built in Adobe Flex. Why? Glad you asked. There are several reasons.

  1. We’re most comfortable with it. The knowledge and experience are there. That means a quicker development time.
  2. The Phidgets kit provides a nice Flex API. Which is, ya know, important.
  3. We can make it an Air app. We can build a desktop app with Adobe Air, which is a “Good Thing”. Even better, we can still allow support for…
  4. Game Development in Flash. There are quite a few Flash based games floating around on the internet. These games are designed for certain kind of user attitude, which lines up pretty directly with the user attitude we are assuming in the context of a public space. This attitude expects that games are quick to play and easy to understand. Even more importantly, we hope for our physical installation to stand as a long term development tool for the New Media students that follow us. We’d love for our work to provide opportunities for future students to learn about touch and gesture based interface design. The New Media program is pretty strongly focused on Flash as a development platform, so it is a good bet these future students will have a strong grasp of the environment.

The PINGplatform software will abstract the interactions with the Phidgets API, providing an easy interface to the data that a game developer will really care about. It will also provide tools to create common interface bits. What’s that mean? Think text input. Think list item selection. Finally, the platform will also provide an operating system of sorts, within which games will be chosen and loaded. This means lots of games can be played in the same physical installation.

Written by tonydewan

September 2nd, 2008 at 11:23 pm

Posted in conceptual

Some Project Elaboration

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So, I’ve provided a conceptual overview of what the PINGplatform is. Now it’s time for more specifics. Here is what I said before:

The PINGplatform is, in short, a Physically INteractive Gaming platform.

That doesn’t tell you too much, does it? Let’s elaborate:

The PINGplatform is a gaming platform. In focusing on public spaces and how we might explore the place of technology therein, we thought a strictly gaming device would be the most appropriate. You see, people seem to like to play games. So, we hope that by choosing to create a gaming platform, rather than something with more purely artistic motives, we’ll lower the barriers of entry for potential users. Also, by developing games that are easy to understand and quickly play, we hope to make it even easier for people to jump right in. To that end, our first game will be an implementation of the classic game Pong. These points are particularly true when you understand that our target environment is a large public building on a major metropolitan university campus.

Note: The term platform is kind of ambiguous. On a how-does-this-work level, the PINGplatform exists as both a hardware and software platform. There will be much more on these aspects later. Suffice it to say, the term game platform is high level. We just mean its for playing games.

Sketch shows aproximate form factor of the PINGplatform hardware.

Sketch shows aproximate form factor of the PINGplatform hardware.

It is a table. It is an essentially multi-touch table. If you’ve ever seen Microsoft’s Surface, you have an idea of the form factor we’re going for. A very important point needs to be made in reference to the term multi-touch, though. In it’s first version, the PINGplatform will not be multi-touch in the sense that is now popularly implied. Don’t necessarily think iPhone or Surface. You’ll see what this means soon. (However, we do have big plans for version 2! At that point, we hope, you can think iPhone or Surface. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.)

It is a piece of interactive art. This represents some our initial motivations for exploring physical computing in public spaces. PINGplatform will be an art installation just as much as a technology platform. We hope to explore how technology can influence interactions in public. We want to foster impromptu relationships and spontaneous connections. The best art makes you think.

We want to make you think.

Written by tonydewan

September 1st, 2008 at 7:52 pm

Posted in conceptual

an introduction

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The PINGplatform is, in short, a Physically INteractive Gaming platform.  In abstract, it is an exploration of physical computing in the context of public spaces, specifically focused on fostering new kinds of interaction in public spaces through technology. In long, it is a physical art installation, a hardware and software platform, and a tool to explore human interaction in public spaces.

The PINGplatform is in it’s infancy. Eventually, the software platform will be released. Plans to build your own hardware platform will come as well. There will be many photos, videos, and words along the way. Stay tuned!

The PINGplatform is a collaborative exploration between Chris Basham and Tony Dewan, with the invaluable guidance of Dr. Polly Baker of the Indiana University Pervasive Technology Labs, and Susan Tennant, Dr. Richard Edwards, and Skip Comer of the Indiana University School of Informatics faculty.

Written by tonydewan

August 30th, 2008 at 12:44 am

Posted in conceptual

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