Staircases are the healthiest way to get from one floor to another, yet unless the elevator is hidden from view, people seem to use elevators and escalators more.
The Interactive Stairs create a more interesting and engaging space so that people will be more inclined to use them instead of the elevator.
Using force sensors and top down projection, we have created a system that can be used to make stairs and floors more interactive by projecting different objects onto the space depending on how much force is put onto a certain area.
Our final product is an array of Do-It-Yourself pressure sensors that can measure how much force is placed on them as someone takes a step. This array is placed on the floor for demonstration purposes, but it was intended to be placed on stairs to detect people’s steps as they walk up the stairs. Each of the sensors is connected to an Arduino which is controlled by a computer using Processing that it hooked up to a projector. As people take steps, an animation of a flower is projected from the ceiling down to the floor where the person is standing. While working on this project, we ran into many problems related to the code for the project and the pressure sensors. The code used an abundance of flower animations that were high resolution, causing the program to freeze while running the code after making one animation. This problem lead us to spend multiple days debugging the code to solve the problem, and not working on the rest of it. The sensors were a big problem for us as well. We spent two days just trying to get one working one when there were no problems with the ones we had made, just with the circuit we were using to test the sensors. Because of this we were not able to create the amount of sensors needed to cover the stairs, and we spent most of our last work day just hooking them up on the floor.
The first iteration of our project was the idea of making the staircase into a set of games. We brainstormed game ideas like Calabozo (Black Hole), a game where during each turn, a black hole would appear on the floor, eliminating a player. It would be a race to see who landed on the correct sensor, making a treasure chest appear. There were other games too, like an interactive koi pond and a Piano Tiles-like game. We also thought it would be nice to create a multicolored grid as a standby screen. A large problem with these ideas besides the amount of time it would take to complete the code for all of the games was that games are competitive. Most people would end up running up and down the stairs, which would cause a major health and safety hazard.
For the second iteration we got more creative with our ideas. We came up with the idea for a background which changed every time you took a step, and we put some effort into this by both designing animated robots that could explain this to anyone who goes to use the stairs. Each time a person took a step down the stairs, the background animation would change to show a different environment like rainforest or outer space. We realized that in order to create and animate enough backgrounds to have one for each stair, it would take up to much time and would be impossible to do in the time frame we had.
After realizing that we would need to scale down our ideas, we saw that if someone is walking up the stairs, they may not see the projection on the ground since they would create a shadow over it. Because of this we decided that for our third and final iteration we would work on scaled down graphics, but that we would add in musical instruments that could be played by stepping on different steps. This would allow the stairs to be interactive even if people could not see the animations. When we tried to add the piece to the staircase, we realized that putting the entire project onto stairs would take more time than we had to finish the project. We ended up moving the project the floor. In order to do this we had to project onto the wall, follow around the size with tape, and put it on the floor.