A Bot that Rocks the Boat

There’s nothing more satisfying than watching an idea become reality. With some help from Dr. Turkel, my interactive exhibit is starting to take physical shape!

As mentioned in my previous interactive exhibit design post, my robot will respond to user input by replaying a hypothetical journey of a 16th-century Portuguese merchant. The mechanics are based on a drawing robot. While my plan is to showcase a historic trade route, this robot could narrate any sort of journey, be refitted as a drawbot, or act as a game interface – it can be modified to do anything where a pointer and display are needed.

The Robot

A piece of foam core is held within the frame  of the robot. A map will be mounted to its surface. The usable surface of the foam core measures 43.5×21.5cm.

A bar across the back of the frame supports two stepper motors and a Phidget Unipolar Stepper. String is wound around bobbins that are connected to each stepper motor. The strings suspend a magnetized metal ball. A strong magnet pulls the ball toward itself when placed against the foam core. As the stepper motors are manipulated, the ball changes position, drawing the magnet along with it.

The Program

The Max patch has grown since we looked at it last. The latest patch has several components:

  • An array which tells Max the geographical relationship between cities chosen for the map using values for cardinal directions.
  • Buttons to choose the cardinal directions.
  • A section to play custom audio upon arrival at each location.
  • A section to display options for the next location underneath their respective buttons.
  • A section to display the title and explanatory text for each location.
  • A section to pass coordinates to the stepper motors via Phidget upon selection of a new location. These coordinates are measured in the “clicks” of the motor. The velocity of the motors is specified in this section.

Feb14BotWhen the patch is locked in presentation mode, pressing a direction button will take you to the next city, causing the motors to move.

The Result

The robot works. Next time I write about it, I hope to have it looking more like an exhibit!


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