Wearable Gaming Controller for Interactive Experiences
Interaction Design, Physical Prototyping, Electronics
2017 MHCI+D Prototyping Studio - Wei-Hung Hsieh / Michael Frampton
This was an open-ended 1.5 week project to prototype something of our choice. Given our love for games and our desire to gain experience prototyping with Arduino, we set out to improve one of our existing projects. We previously built a game that used phone accelerometer data and voice commands to shoot fireballs like a mage , so we used that mechanic as a starting point.
The interactions were more annoying than exciting
Our previous version of the game used two modes of input. First, players shot fireballs by moving their phone quickly forward. While this interaction had a 'wand like' experience to it, it was highly inaccurate and lacked character. Second, players could change the type of energy they shot by saying fire, water, grass, or SUPER! These input modes unfortunately led to players violently shaking their phones and yelling at their computers.
Nintendo Power Glove
The Power Glove was a controller accessory for the original NES. It was released in 1989, but was quickly taken off the market after flopping due to three main flaws:
- Unintuitive & inaccurate gesture controls
- Reliance on the attached control pad
- Difficult calibration & set up
We looked to many of our favorite characters for inspiration. We recognized that without a gun, the majority of characters shot power from their hands.
The 2D game was coded in p5.js. All sensor data was parsed in the Arduino terminal and sent to the game code using a third-party p5.js library.
An Arduino board is used as the core of the controller. We tried various sensors including accelerometer, gyroscope, and proximity sensor, but eventually found the flex and light sensors to give us the highest returns with the lowest implementation difficulty. A basic vibration motor is used in the palm of the glove to provide haptic feedback. We printed a chassis to contain the entire system on the arm and wrist.
Mass Rapid Testing
We tested our prototype at a design showcase hosted in the University of Washington CoMotion Makerspace. This allowed us to rapidly test the design with dozens of users and view many first impressions.
The majority of the users commented on the use of haptic feedback. Users said the glove-feedback made the glove feel real and immersive. Many expressed a desire for increased feedback, both haptic and in other forms such as lights. Our haptic system was at times inconsistent or delayed, but this was due to the fidelity of the prototype, and would be easily corrected in future iterations.
Users expressed that haptic feedback was the key immersive quality of the glove.
The 3D-printed chassis helped the glove feel standalone and self-contained, but we could have easily saudered much longer wires and kept the Arduino board separate from the glove.
Our two gestures were simple enough for users to easily pick up on, but we worry about difficulties with scale as we look to create a more rich game with more interactions.
The responsive feedback was the most successful aspect of our design, and we want to explore more motors and patterns in the future.
Keep It Simple
Our original plans for the glove were over ambitious, and it took a while beating our heads against the wall before we decided to scale back. We learned first hand to make the prototyping process iterative: focus on a single aspect of the design, then build and test that aspect alone.