Wearables & Out in the World: Spark Wand
by Kevin Apolo
The Spark Wand is part of a multidisciplinary theatrical project integrating quadcopters, a controller (or wand), motion-capture technologies and an actor controlling the system. Working with the aerial robotics lab and some of the members involved in the project, I was able to create the first prototype of the Spark Wand. The reason why I call it that is because it uses a component called a Spark/Particle Photon. The Photon is a special Arduino-like micro-controller that has an integrated WiFi component that uses the same programming language as Arduino and has a bit more features like web-based development, browser-based development and testing. The primary reason I used this board was because of its convenient form factor. Its dimensions are 1.44 in x 0.8 in x 0.27 in with headers on which is very convenient for making an easily-portable and lightweight controller/wand.
The controller itself comes with 10 buttons that relay information (for the time being) into a “dashboard” that is included with the development provided by Particle. It lets me monitor the signals. counts how many times they come in and also provide me information of the time the signal is received and gives a graphical representation of it. An example of what it looks like is shown in fig. 3 below:
The controllers will interface with a system called ROS (otherwise known as the Robotic Operating System) that takes multiple inputs and communicates between the system, the wand, motion capture system and quadcopters.
The wand is made to be comfortable, easy to use, and lightweight with no external wires or cables. The latency experienced with a system with even decent connection to WiFi not noticeable and provides reliable results.