PLAY BALL! : Interactive Exhibit Design

I have fond memories of visiting the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto as a kid. Facing a nondescript section of Don Mills Avenue and surrounded by equally nondescript highrise apartment buildings and industrial parks, the Science Centre is a jewel in the urban wilderness. It backs onto the lush valley of the east branch of the Don River, and is connected to an extensive trail network. The centre itself is actually three sprawling buildings linked by walkways with big picture windows and views of the adjacent parkland. That should be Big Picture windows, because they offer a reminder that science does not happen in the isolation of climate controlled laboratories or exhibit halls. Want to understand photosynthesis or the food chain? Look outside. Want to understand climate change? Look outside. Want to understand the solar system? Get a telescope THEN look outside.

What I loved as a kid and continue to love as an adult(ish), are the weird cool interactive exhibits and demonstrations that make the Science Centre so engaging. As a sports fanatic I naturally gravitated to the SPORTS Arena gallery. I would like to combine my museological and sporting interests in an interactive exhibit. What I have in mind is an interactive baseball that would show users how to grip a ball to achieve different types of pitches. Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn said “Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.” Successful pitchers change up their pitch selection to keep the hitter off balance.

Interactive baseball with contact points.

Interactive baseball with contact points.

My interactive baseball will consist of a regulation baseball with contact points connected to a Makey Makey device. The contact points will be colour-coded to show the user where to place their fingers for each pitch. The Makey Makey will be connected to a Max patch which will facilitate the computer programming side of the exhibit. When the user grips the baseball with their fingers on the appropriate contact points it will close the electrical circuit and send a signal through the Makey Makey to the Max patch, which will in turn bring up information about the pitch.

Creating a patch using Max 7 software.

Creating a patch using Max 7 software.

The hardest part so far has been the coding in Max 7 software from Cycling 74. This is not something that comes naturally to me but, I like challenge and the adaptability of the software. The Max patch I have developed so far is triggered by key object which is linked to the directional arrows of the Makey Makey device. A select object interprets the ASCII input from the key and bangs the corresponding pitch, displaying an image in the fpic object.

I would like to make the baseball more interactive, perhaps by incorporating the pitch selection into some sort of pitching game. This will probably require more coding and work in Max would could turn out to be interesting or disastrous. We shall see.

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