by Lynn on December 12, 2010
For my finals in both Physical Computing and Intro to Computational Media I worked with Matt Tennie on a gumball/pinball/music player. We were lucky enough to have a good base–the simple reclaimed gumball machine Matt mentioned earlier in the semester. When we started planning this project we intended to make it a fully functioning pinball machine with bumpers, targets and a point system that would only change the song played based on the playfield piece hit. We soon decided, primarily due to time restraints and cost, that we would make a machine in which the song advancement would be separate from the game play. Both methods have their advantages but I’m happy we ended up with one machine that has two potentially stand alone functions.
The machine’s aesthetics are based on Andy Warhol’s first factory (where he lived and allowed other people to make his work). That version of the Factory was covered entirely in silver, wall to wall, ceiling to floor. We decided to cover our pinball machine accordingly. We did, however, add other Warhol references such as the famed “Banana” and its corresponding Velvet Underground record.
As a music player, the machine only plays Velvet Underground songs. To navigate through the playlist the user uses the pinball flippers to fast forward and rewind. For play and pause functions the user must bump the machine.
When it’s time to play pinball and a quarter is inserted into the machine, the music functions are disabled so the player can play pinball without constantly changing the songs. When the game is over and the gumball is removed, the music navigation functions are reinstated. This was accomplished by adding a few simple switches in the machine as well as an accelerometer which was interfaced with an Arduino and a run with a Processing sketch.
There is also a monitor mounted above the playfield which displayed a music visualizer. It uses the Minim library for Processing and implementes beat detection to create a ball generator based on the sound of the music being played. We are still working on the music visualization and intend to add more Warhol imagery.
In the video below I give a brief description of the machine and its functionality.