TITLE SCREEN FOR TOREE
At my family's ranch house, we have an elevator. My mom is the only person who uses it. I wanted to make the 40-second trip from one floor to the other more interesting, so I designed and produced a motion-sensing tablet, mounted onto a 3D-printed stand, that would wake upon entry, play a short randomly-selected ranch-related news bumper, and then return to a low-powered state, awaiting the next trigger. Below are three of the news bumpers available for viewing, as well as a short video showing the path of the 3D-printed stand as it went from basic SketchUp Renderings to the final, implemented form! Very exciting stuff!
The name TOR-EE is an acronym as well as a play on words. My neice is named Tori (pronounced Tor-E), and the acronym stands for Thousand Oaks Ranch Elevator Entertainment -- TOREE. The purpose of the project was to simply make an otherwise banal elevator ride a more interesting and entertaining experience. It would also provide informative elements such as weather forecasts and also serve as a creative delivery mechanism for suggestions.
In order to pull this off, there were certain challenges that would have to be overcome. The elevator has no direct power source to pull from once inside the cabin, so the installation would need it's own contained power supply, and one large enough to keep the tablet working for at least a week or two. I wanted a stand that would hold the electronic components, but also hide the wires, and contain a hidden compartment for a large battery in the back. I decided to make one via 3D-Printing.
SEE THE EVOLUTION
CLICK TO PLAY VIDEO
I had never used 3D-Printing software before, but, luckily, the learning curve of SketchUp wasn't too bad, and within a few hours, was able to figure it out enough to create a pretty solid stand that would perfectly accommodate a Nexus 7 tablet, as well as hold a large high-capacity battery in the back with a special route for the wire to connect the two. A friend was kind enough to lend me the use of his 3D printer, I supplied some white polylactic printer filament , and it was off to the races! It took nearly an entire 24 -hour period for the printer to physically build the stand - but the end result kicked ass! Take a look at the evolution from screen to real life, and how it functioned once put into the elevator!
Once I had the stand and the video segments, I needed a way to launch a different news bumper via the Nexus 7 tablet every time somebody stepped into the elevator. The solution was to use the tablet's camera, write a quick and dirty program that would detect color and light variances in the environment (motion-sensing) and then trigger a video chosen at random. After that, it would need to go back into hibernation the second the video ended in order to conserve battery while it awaited the next motion trigger.
I used Tasker, which is an excellent Android program allowing users to automate tasks and perform nearly unlimited functions on their mobile or tablet devices. By creating a basic "recipe" of commands, I was able to get Tasker to use my camera to detect motion, pick a random number, attribute that number to a video, and then play that video. After 40 seconds, the video would end, and the screen would power down to a near-dormant state until it was triggered again. It was perfect! On top of that, the 25600mah power bank I was using as a battery afforded it complete autonomy for nearly three weeks!
Within two hours, my mother asked that I remove the installation from the elevator. Why? Everything performed perfectly. The experience was solid. Each video even started with a quaint little smiling face saying "HI!" accompanied by a soft 'ding' so as not to startle when the video sounded off unexpectedly. So what was the issue?
I had assumed my mother might be bored standing in a silent wooden box for 40 seconds, but never stopped to consider that that very dullness was the very attribute she enjoyed. The installation, it would turn out, violated the sanctity of her otherwise relaxing ascension/descension and interrupted her only escape from an otherwise all-male family. I never stopped to think that this project was a solution in search of a problem, and a fix to something that was never broken to begin with.
The installation was removed, and any mention of TOREE has since then been relegated to "Remember that time?" stories in the sitting room. Maybe it'll reappear suddenly during some future April Fool's Day or make a re-vamped and re-tooled appearance as a scary Halloween prank! Who knows? ;)
Having an abundance of Nexus 7 tablets given to me as Thank-You gifts for my contributions as a consultant for Google, I wanted to create a series of service apps that utilized spare tablets being used as dedicated bedside table ...