It’s not often that a person gets to have that nervous excitement that always shows up at the end of a long project. But if I’ve ever felt it in my life, I certainly feel it today.
What became The Adventure Box has been a very exciting journey for me, one filled with friends, new experiences, personal growth, and of course adventure. The project started as a simple discussion while walking down a sidewalk. But from there it turned into something magical, and one of the things i’m most proud of in my life. Thank you to everyone who helped me accomplish this much. A big thank you to the main team listed on the website, as well as everyone who made toys for the project for being so selfless.
We have big plans for the project in the next year, and we only see it going onward and upward. But for the next month or so we are going to take a breather, and see what the world thinks of what we have so far. To those reading this who are new to the project, welcome aboard and I hope you like the project. And to those of you who have been following it all along thank you, and please help us spread the word and let’s see what happens! And if you can, go see the box at AC Gears in NYC in the next two weeks!
1:04 pm • 3 December 2012
THE MAKER FAIRE!
Greetings legions of information starved fans! I’m here to fill your hunger with delicious updates. The big news is, that the Adventure Box will be shown at the 2012 NYC Maker Faire! (pause for wild cheering). The Maker Faire is many times bigger than anything we’ve been at before, with thousands of people visiting over two full days. So of course that has given us another deadline to meet!
In the past few months we have focusing on cosmetic upgrades to the box itself. We picked a simple but stylish white and red paint job which after many trials and even more errors, it looks splendid. We are also adding graphics to the plexiglass panels using a laser cutter to etch onto the surface. And I must say it looks stunning, especially when it picks up the LED lights from below.
We’ve also been hard at work, along with many good friends of ours, on making toys! These awesome toys won’t be given away at the Maker Faire, but they will stock the machine at it’s official launch shortly after! There’s some really great stuff that’s been made and I’ll post a few pictures below with some of them. If you’d like to contribute toys to the project as well please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly I encourage anyone interested to check out the Maker Faire on the 29th and 30th at the New York Hall of Science in Queens. It’s a fantastic event and of course you can visit us inside the hall itself. I’ll update this when we know exactly where to find us. Tickets are 30$ or 15$ with a student ID, and are well worth the money. See you there!
10:49 pm • 27 November 2012
THE INTERACTIVE SHOW!
Last week’s Interactive Show at NYC Resistor went great! I had a fantastic time and met a lot of very cool people. The Adventure Box received a very enthusiastic welcome to it’s first public showing. That’s not to say it was the only project there, there were lots of amazing exhibits there from some great people. Definitely check out nycresistor.com to see more on the other projects.
For the show I decided to make some fun toys to show off both the hardware and the spirit of the project. The custom toys that will eventually go in the box are far from ready, and I wanted to have something for the guests to take home with them. So i bought a big bag of army men and started customizing them. I separated them into armies of different colors, each with its own rarity. And then for each color there was a special ‘sparkle’ edition army man who had glitter on him and was extra rare. I thought it would fun to add a little rarity to the toys, so people could get excited when they got a unusual one. After that I paired them up with RFID tags, and gave each army man his own name, and a squad name based on his color. Then they went into a capsule with some color matched candy and then into the Adventure Box.
On a technical side, the box did very well at the show. The programming and connectivity worked flawlessly. The biggest issue actually seemed to be one I can’t really control. The vending machine seemed to occasionally skip and not vend a capsule when turned. I’m not sure how to make that more reliable as its really just a product of the vending machine mechanisms themselves, but of course i’ll look into it. The RFID reading was probably 90% accurate, as in 9 out of 10 times when a capsule was vended the machine was able to scan the rfid tag and get the appropriate information. I’m going to continue working on making that better, but in the final product each toy will also contain a unique code on a sticker as a backup. This code can be used on the website to bring up information about the toy and its maker. So even if the electronics completely fail the user will still be able to learn more about the toy later on.
But back to the show, I had a wonderful time and would like to thanks the fine folks at NYC Resistor for putting on such a splendid affair. I have included a number of pictures of the toys below and of the vending machine at the show itself so check them out!
10:47 pm • 27 November 2012
ADVENTURE BOX (TOY BOT) PROJECT UPDATE 4
It has been a long time since we have spoken about my project, so I have much to tell you! The lack of updates is in part due to the physical end of the project winding down, and the marketing/branding end of the project starting up. I have been hard at work with my co-conspirators on the project logo, website, artwork, and of course toys. One significant change is that we have finally picked a name for the box. This first iteration shall be called Adventure Box! That said I have been continuing to improve the insides of the box, and those improvements will be the focus of this post.
My efforts have been mostly concerned with two things in the latest rounds of changes. One was the effort to simply clean the box up and make the connections more permanent. I cut up the LED strips in the top and glued and soldered them flat on the bottom of the box, rather than sticking up on the sides as before. I also laser cut a slot for the LCD screen and made some custom wiring that runs along the edges of the box giving the front panel a much cleaner look. I also did this for some components within, giving the whole thing a much needed cleanup.
Secondly I was unhappy with the reliability of the detection. I previously had one reader at the bottom of the capsule chute. This worked very well for toys that allowed gravity to take over and bring the rfid chip to the bottom of the capsule. But since many of the toys will not be made by myself, I really didn’t want to limit the creativity of other makers to by having that be a requirement. So I added two more readers on each side to add to the range and coverage. However I soon discovered that readers in proximity interfere with each other and make nothing work whatsoever. So after a little bit of despair, I realized that quickly turning each reader on and off in sequence, such that only one reader was on at a time, I could get full coverage with the readers very close to each other. This has proven to be a much more flexible system than the previous one reader setup.
As always I have included some pictures below and one of our new Adventure Box logo! And you can hear me talk about the project in my new video on youtube here.
Oh and lastly the project officially has its own site at www.adventureboxproject.com and this blog will be migrating there before long. So check it out!
10:46 pm • 27 November 2012
TOYBOT PROJECT BLOG 03
The project has taken a huge step towards completion. The basic functionality is 95% complete. I know have functioning LED lights, Twitter functionality, inventory functionality, RFID scanning, and LCD screen. You can see in the pictures below, its starting to look very pretty too. Challenges were plentiful as usual. The http code needed to be cleaned up and revised so they were always sent correctly with no garbage characters in the streams. The LED code library was revised for faster updating, and I had to attach an additional power supply just for the LED lights.
Moving forward I will be shifting towards making these electronics cleaner and more permanent. Most of the wires are still using pins, and should be soldered in the final version. I also need to work on finalizing the actual construction of the machine, specifically creating a bracket for the lcd screen, as tape doesn’t look terribly good. It will also be integrated into the custom paint scheme, same as the wires and led strip. I also plan on adding sounds, a simplified power supply, and a custom external rfid antenna, all of which will be challenges.
But with this level of functionality I can start moving on to other aspects of the project, such as potential toy themes, toy construction, custom paint job, and the project website.
As always there is a video documenting this step in the projecthere, and several photos below showing the latest progress.
10:44 pm • 27 November 2012
TOYBOT PROJECT BLOG 02
I thought I would update everyone as to my progress on the project. I’ve succeeded in setting up most of the basic functionality. As of now I have program that can read tags from an RFID reader, add data, and post that data to a mySQL database via php. I Also have a Arduino board that can get information from the mySQL database via an ID and display that information on a LCD screen. I’ve also been working on making both programs more reliable, with fail checks and backup protocols.
I had the most difficulty in setting up the Arduino to communicate correctly with php, it proved to be an unintuitive task, that had to be setup in a very particular way. I only succeeded with lots of online examples and some help from my friend Jeremy Abel who deserves a mention here.
My current goal is to have the basic functionality 100% complete, the only remaining piece being the RFID reader for the Arduino board, which I am about half done with. Beyond that I am looking forward towards new functionality, such as RGB lights, and sounds. I have ordered new parts for these, and some new parts simply to replace ones I am currently using. I had to upgrade to a much larger breadboard, as I was running out of space, and I have ordered the Arduino Mega, as I am also running out of I/O ports on my current one. I also assembled most a shield that will give an Arduino board the ability to play mp3 files from an SD card which is pictured below.
Lastly I have a video update here where I explain things more elaborately.
10:43 pm • 27 November 2012
TOYBOT PROJECT BLOG 01
Hello Everyone. I would like to share something with you and I am very excited about it. I have started a project that I am temporarily calling “ToyBot,” but I am expecting that name to change.
Basically I am converting a traditional toy capsule vending machine into something much cooler. For one it will dispense unique, handmade one of a kind toys made my many creative people. It will also be a work of art itself, both aesthetically and electronically. Each capsule will contain an RFID tag that when bought will trigger the machine to display information about the toy you just bought. It does this via an Arduino Uno board with an ethernet shield. This will communicate with a MySQL database via php to track the purchase, return information, and tweet about the purchase being made.
I hope to document the process of making this project a reality as much as possible and share the challenges, the achievements, and of course all the wonderful people involved. There are some pictures below and I’ve made a quick video explanation that shows the hardware and explains the basic project technologies. You can watch it here.
10:40 pm • 27 November 2012