The PUCK: Smart surfaces with RFID

I’ve been working with Brent Bushnell on a new device we call the PUCK. Its a wireless RFID reader which transmits detected tags to a computer using an wireless radio. Its also got an accelerometer on-board, which allows us to turn any RFID tag mounted against a wall into a “virtual knob.” In the video below, you can see I’m controlling the relative mix of red, green, and blue in my LED parcans using an interactive surface which is nothing more than RFID tags hidden behind a piece of paper.

Beyond the “interactive surfaces” demo below, we also built a scavenger hunt game (using many hidden laminated cards, each bearing an RFID tag) which we unveiled last week at the H+ Summit in Irvine, CA.

If you’re in Los Angeles Thursday, December 17, come to the monthly Mindshare event, where you can play this game in person as well as play with other Mindshare Labs interactive diversions!

Technical

These initial prototypes are on a custom PCB I designed in Eagle CAD. They are use an Arduino Mini from Sparkfun as their brains, XBee Series 1 radios to communicate with the base-station. The astute viewer will notice a large proportion of the components in this device come from Sparkfun… The base-station software is written in Python, using an XBee protocol module I wrote (I’m open-sourcing that module shortly).

I designed the enclosures in Autodesk Inventor and fabricated then in an FDM (plastic-printer) machine.

Additionally, each PUCK has an RGB LED in the center, a ring of eight LEDs on the circumference, and a pager motor to indicate a successful RFID scan. These are all controllable by the base-station computer over the XBee radio link.

The “colors” described in the video are produced by means of an two American DJ LED Par64s, using an ENTTEC USB-DMX controller and my Python DMX drivers, already available online.