WIth the plan laid out, I had to begin making steps in the right direction. To begin I mapped out the materials I would need and focused on the most important piece of the puzzle: the feducials. Using a 1/6" acrylic sheet I could rastor and attach another layer to the wooden letters that would still be thin enough for the magnets to work. This would block the orange layer from "glowing" through capturing light and pushing it through the letters, but the new black layer was essential to provide the sharp contrast necessary for feducials.
For more information on Feducials or to build some on your own, feel free to visit and download software from the following three sources:
With the black block layer printed, I then applied the layer of white acrylic paint. I had hoped that this process would be just as easy as the last, but it seemed that I could not find the right process to keep the paint on the blocks. Every time I painted them, I would wait an hour and then try to wipe away from the non-negative, but the paint on the feducials would always seem to run off as well. Trial after Trial went by, and though the feducial started to show some white, it was never enough to be recognized by the reader.
After days of playing around the best solution I came to was the dip and wipe. Essentially I would coat the entire acrylic layer with white paint, leave it in water for 10 minutes after drying, and scrape off the excess paint with another sheet of acrylic. The problem, I found was that the towels and wipes I was using previously dug deep into the rastord layer and took off the paint there as well, in this case, the acrylic sheet used the scrape was the same depth all the way through. Therefore, though it did not take away the paint, It scraped away all of the side paint. The only issue here was that the original black acrylic sheet would get scratched.
After finishing my project, I was somewhat happy with the results. The layer worked and the computer could recognize the feducials, but the white paint was not as strong as I had hoped. Searching through things on the internet I found that the best way to add paint to rasotring was the layer of white paint (as I did) and then using an acrylic squeegee to get off the excess. This would have the same effect as scraping the paint off and it would not scratch the acrylic.
Anywho, I was happy because it worked out as you can see below:
After attaching this layer to the existing letter blocks, the next step was to put together the table. With my previous experience in cutting wood on the laser cutter, I was ready to go and quickly shot out the four legs. Before adding on the clear acrylic table to these, I decided to go with a dark finish and shine. These gave the table (seen below) a much more professional look and covered most of the imperfections. Similarly, I found that hot glue worked much better than the wood glue. The later smeared all over the surface and took an extended period to dry, while the former, though less strong, looked much cleaner and worked immediately. I'm not sure how this will effect the lifetime of my table, but it seems that it will get me through at least the next few months so I can't complain.
As you can see from the above picture I have also been playing around with Tuio and Processing (the back end code for the feducials I have chosen). Tuio feducials can be coded in Processing through using Java and I have been splicing through the demo to hack out something close to my vision. The demo provides enough code for one too look at the feducials and recorgnize them in real time, and my goal is to then assign these number values to letters, to put those letters into a string aka the word, and to reference the word against the english dictionary. Key in all of this was making sure that the words were put in the right order and that the program recognized the horizontal direction of the letters so that it new which was first and which was last.
Overall, The code was slow and arduous, but after many iterations I finally got it to work. The next step was to then make the UI (user interfacing) attractive. For me this meant building out the development part as much as possible in the crunch time hours before our final expo. What I came up with was a re-projection of the word spelled and a color and text notification that the user either had it right or messed up. It wasn't the greatest, but i really think thought that it could get the viewer at the expo thinking about the scalability of the internal development of the system. As this was the key. The physical necessities were low cost and engaging, AND the technical applications were simple and scalable.
And boy did it look great! The expo went phenomenal and it seemed that many people had in interest in seeing the progression of the system. Below you can see the program itself in action as it recognizes F, U, N, their order, and that put together they form FUN (an english word).
For the lab I also threw together the below box to add some nice branding to the effect.
This was a phenomenal experience for me and I really hope to continue pushing ideas into reality. I think that Fadoodles has a bright future and I am truly excited to see where this venture takes me. I'm not saying it currently doesn't it have its flaws, I really just think that I have built a strong base and proved a broad application for the use of feducials in teaching technologies. As an effective, inexpensive teaching tool, open sourced platform can build around these toys to enhance students application of knowledge.
We'll see what the future has in store, but please keep learning and stay tuned!
All the best,