NoseyNick, Mark, Aiden, and Kathryn's LED Dance Floor

We were in a local indoor playground and saw an interactive dance / game floor. The kids loved it, were running around like mad getting tonnes of exercise without realising it, and having enourmous ammounts of fun. Mostly out of curiosity, I googled the manufacturer to see what it might cost if I wanted to get one at home. Twenty Three thousand dollars, plus shipping, plus travel. Ouch. Err, no. A bit more web hunting and I found one for "only" $15,000, still considerably more than I was hoping.

Time for a plan B. How about we MAKE one? I mean, why not? I'm already quite an electronics geek and a programmer, the kids love their Home Depot Kids Workshop (bits of simple woodwork, building birdhouses and stuff). We can surely build some wooden boxing, stick some LEDs in each cell, maybe some microswitches to sense where the kids are jumping, cover the lot in frosted perspex or acrylic or something, maybe with some foam-rubber underneath to give it a bit more "bounce", cable the LEDs up to some reasonably simple control electronics, and drive it all with our own software on a laptop or something. Should probably cost less than $2000 (plus the recycled laptop), AND teach the kids some important lessons:

So, we're building a Dance Floor. It's going to take a lot of time and effort, but so far we're doing OK, we've tested almost all of the theory on a little 3x3-cell "tester", we've tried different sizes of cells, tested the strength of the acrylic, experimented with aluminium foil, paint, at least 2 ways of giving the floor "bounce", and at 4 or 5 ways of frosting the acrylic. We've cut, filed, and painted the boxing and baseboard for our first 4x4ft "quarter floor". On our 3x3-cell "tester" we've tried a few different ways to wire the LEDs, we've simulated and now tested all the principles of the control electronics, we've programmed and debugged our parallel port control software, we can display any image of animation we want as long as it'll fit in 9 pixels... and it's looking like we'll come in well under budget, but probably well over on time - not that we're in any massive hurry.

More info

There are loads of pics and progress updates on facebook - we hope to transfer most of these to flickr soon. The videos are now much more interesting, but probably not reachable unless you're my facebook friend.

A presentation on the Dance Floor [PDF, 1.8MB]

Our game designer web app - feel free to design some pictures or games and cut+paste the box of numbers into an email to us - we promise we'll send you photos or video of your designs on our floor, and invite you 'round to see it for real!

This stuff is maintained by Nick Waterman - Email Me Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!