AirMaze, a new twist (literally) on the Maze Game
The AirMaze idea started from a conversation with Shirley Lee, a recreation professional who organizes activities and programs for seniors in long-term care. One of Shirley’s specialties is in multi-sensory stimulation, aka Snoezelen. She expressed the need for interesting and engaging rehabilitation activities for the elderly and stroke victims to help in recovering and/or strengthening hand-eye coordination and was fascinated with the Maze Game.
While the Maze Game requires the user to hold and tilt the game unit, we wanted to maintain the game play but separate the motion required to play the game from the LED panel itself. Et voila, the AirMaze was born.
The AirMaze consists of two parts – a unit containing a LED panel display and initially, a modified version of my MIDI Glove. The game software resides in the display unit while the glove controlled the game “ball” with rotations and up-and-down movements of the hand. A subsequent repackaging of the hardware allows the accelerometer and transmission function to be inserted into a stuffed toy to make it easier for users to manipulate.
The hand or toy’s movements are detected by a 3-axis accelerometer and processed by an Arduino Nano that then transmits this data using an RF link to be received by the display system. Initially, the RF link used a cheap simplex 433MHz transmitter and corresponding receiver. However, radio interference from florescent lighting and other sources resulted in intermittent transmission and the whole link was sensitive to antennae positioning. As these problems led to undesirable choppy game play, a more robust link was needed. The RF link was redesigned to use a more flexible and powerful nRF24L01 2.4GHz duplex transmission system, that also now provides the opportunity for the user to receive direct local vibration feedback during the game. This makes the game play of AirMaze identical to that of the smaller Maze Game.
The display unit has a panel containing 64 LEDs arranged in an 8×8 square, a matching receiver and a second Arduino Nano to convert the the hand or toy’s movements into corresponding ball movements in the game. A small membrane switch panel provides for restarting and resetting the game level, and controlling game play options.
Currently the AirMaze has 10 training levels – most designed by Shirley – to allow players to get used to controlling the movements of the game ball. Once the training levels are completed, there are an additional 20+ game-play mazes (levels) that increase in complexity, starting from very simple and ranging to very difficult with challenges replete with hazards and traps.
While the pictures above show the current state of the hardware, here are a couple of images of the original glove and display prototypes. Subsequent revisions have replaced the RF link with a more powerful and robust 2.4GHz transmission system and repackaged the transmitter so that it can be inserted into a stuffed toy.
Watch here for news about its development and testing…