Help with Canadian Game Show - Floor Mounted Piano Keys

I have reached out with this email to a couple individual users and forum posters and they also suggested I post in here too so here goes -

I don't know where to start but a very informative Keyboard Tech at Long and McQuade instruments here in Toronto recommended that I go to the Pure Data Forums to see if I could find some help with my request and it led me to Arduino products and it led me here.

What I need is help with a challenge I am designing for a new TV Special here in Canada for CBC. The challenge in my mind right now is a musical recognition challenge and involves using something like the big floor sensitive piano used in the movie BIG with Tom Hanks or using sensors and set up like the viral video http://bit.ly/4AzH0C or like this Arduino example - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8Yz_ZfzzXc

What I need to accomplish is to have a set musical pattern say 15-20 Notes arranged in a specific musical pattern. The challenge would be for the contestant to hear 1 note from the pattern and then hit the correct key on the keyboard. When they successfully hit the note the next note in the pattern would be added etc.. The contestant would continue this process until the entire sequence is successfully mastered adding one note at a time and playing the correct sequence until all 15-20 notes have been hit. If you are familiar with the old Milton Bradley game "SIMON" you will understand the similarity.

I know this is a relatively easy program but I just don't live in the technical world at all....so I am hoping someone can point me in the right direction or possibly give me any thoughts.

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

The first decent musician (or at least keyboardist) should win your show, and every one thereafter.

Will they be stepping on the keys? I guess, I haven't seen the movie or shows you write about.

You have both physical and software issues, your keys must work and still not trip anyone. The whole thing I suppose must be able to take down and set up quickly for tests, rehearsals and show(s?) as you probably won't have a studio where you can leave the thing set up during the process. But you know, the whole thing -could- be like a long carpet that can roll up, possibly around a barrel to keep any part from bending too much. If you go that route then make sure you have -plenty- of time to test and re-do.

The software has mostly or all been done somewhere already but still allow 3x to 5x as long as seems realistic on that, even just testing will eat up time like no one wants to believe. And beware that no one believing will cut short on that to where a big won't show until the cameras are on. Test -everything- multiple times and do things in testing that are not expected like feet on 2 keys, shoe toe hits edges, etc, -on every key not just a few-.

I think that the 'keyboard' will be the hard part.

Making a stand-on keyboard that is both safe and reliable sounds quite challenging to me. It's not an Arduino problem, but it's the bit of this project that I'd see as a potential show stopper (no pun intended). If you can buy an existing product for that part, the rest is probably easy.

However, it seems to me that generating and playing the original tones and recognising the keyboard input and comparing it with what was expected and displaying the results and so on should all be handled as an integrated solution, and Arduino doesn't seem like that platform for the whole thing. Just as something to recognise and tell you about keyboard button presses, maybe, but if you can use a standard keyboard I wouldn't see a need for Arduino at all.

As a possible fall-back, would you consider a waist-high giant keyboard that people can operate with their hands? I imagine it would be much easier to get that working reliably and safely, and I'm sure that the sort of hardware already used for quiz games (whatever that might be) would work fine.

Check out Grumpy_Mike's floor keypad system, PM him for his website. something like www.myzenthebox.com, I can't seem to find a post with it.

PeterH: However, it seems to me that generating and playing the original tones and recognising the keyboard input and comparing it with what was expected and displaying the results and so on should all be handled as an integrated solution, and Arduino doesn't seem like that platform for the whole thing.

What was running the smaller version in the video? As far as I can see the Arduino has more than enough processing capability for what he laid out.

Thanks so far members. I did email Mike earlier about his floor mounted system and am waiting to hear from him.

As far as the "Piano" being a strict Prop piece I am not hung up with that being the delivery device.. For me it's more the participant on the show getting the correct sequence. If it's a hand mounted piano, xylophone, chimes ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exwStqF6hqg&feature=related ) as in this video it doesn't matter to me... Visually we need something that looks like an instrument and can play tones (maybe only 8 different tones).

The big question for me is rigging the right system (we might need 4 built instead of 1) that will work for the tones, work for the scoring (meaning the correct order and notes) and be able to be judged without having someone on stage having to audit the participants moves. If it can all be audited within the system that would be perfect.

Make sense?

That look in impresive project. I wonder when that show will be on CH 5 - CBC Toronto ?

I was think about it, and my idea is to build the huge piano / keypad , the sensor would be :

  1. A “sandwish” of conductive foam ← the black kind. Example : Copper/Alumium plate - conductive plate - Copper / Aluminium plate. The circuit will be a voltage divider, going into a comparator, and the output will be 1 for a press on, a zero for a no press.

  2. Work like a “keypad”. Most keypad have a PCB patern. When a conductive material hit that PCB patern, it conduct. So you just buit a big one, using conductive foam, and a PVC plate ( on top of the conductive foam ) You use a voltage divider, a comparator, a press on is 1 and a no press is 0.

If you got 1 and 0, you can program the Arduino or Mega to read that info / data and play a tone. And It can play a tone and wait for the keypad sequence if it is right.

Here a picture of a typical keypad. ( open )

Anyway, just my idea…so far.

The conductive foam conducts better when it's squeezed? You don't need metal plates if you use conductive paint though I'm not sure which is cheaper but the paint will stay where you put it.

Plates/conductive surfaces with a foam insulator between make a capacitor. Squeeze that a bit or just stand on top and the capacitance increases. If the capacitance is high then not much resistor would be needed to get relatively quick response.

With stiff surfaces a small piezo disk can make a pulse on both step on and off or tap (like a door knock sensor).

With the right kind of plastic you can make the surface stepped on/touched light up any color you like....

Capacitive would probably be the most robust approach with the upper plate being at ground potential and the buried plate be the active one as to minimize human body effects. I once made a tactile keyboard for a customer using carbon conductive paint, and transparency plastic. The stack was heat sealed together by means of dissolved hotglue that was sprayed on the layers then the stack was run trough a heat laminator. The active buttons had an air void where one of the inner layers had holes punched where the actual keys were to be.

Here's GrumpyMike's link with details on how he built it.

http://www.thebox.myzen.co.uk/Hardware/MIDI_Footsteps.html

It look like GrumpyMike use my idea no 2. His sensor are well done and clever idea using long headers as parts of the sensor.

@GoForSmoke

Conductive foam is not an isolator. It is design to place a IC chip example : 4000 series into that foam and all leads are “connected” to prevent static electricity on that part. You can measure a ohm reading, when it is press, the reading is getting “shorter” <— lower ohm value. So GrumpyMike use that property of that foam.

I read in his site, GrumpyMike was planning to use a “conductive” mat swtich, too expensive for use for his project. But the OP work for CBC ← Canadian Broadcast Corporation, a Federaly Funded by the Canadian Gorvernment ← The Fed … Ottawa… So THEY can affort those switches.

I know about antistatic foam not being an insulator since 30 years ago. Uncompressed, it is a lousy conductor but with static it doesn't have to be. Still you look at the change in resistance values when you squeeze it, do they represent the linear change in how close the probes are? No they don't. Reason for better conduction is that the conductive parts embedded in the foam get closer together and make more contacts. It works for the same reason that putting graphite between the conducting plates in an old style microphone makes a much better microphone than a reversed-speaker type microphone, a system patented well before 1900. There are other analogs to the same thing as well.

Techone, you are French Canadian, hey? Isolator is almost insulator but not the same. Please don't test my Francais because I stopped using it since 1972 and then it was mostly Paris Francais, not as spoken by family friends in NB.

@GoForSmoke

Techone, you are French Canadian, hey? Isolator is almost insulator but not the same. Please don’t test my Francais because I stopped using it since 1972 and then it was mostly Paris Francais, not as spoken by family friends in NB.

Yep… I am sorry that my writting is a “bit” bad sometime… :blush: I don’t want to test anyone their french anyway, I reserve this for the French section of the forum… My french is rusty. And I am from NB, Canada, north of that province.

Plates/conductive surfaces with a foam insulator between make a capacitor.

You are right. The value will depend : size of the plate, tickness of the insulator, type of insulator. Non conductive foam will do ( the “squizeable” type ) But not conductive black foam.

As for the OP, He/she can you switch plate or DIY big huge Piano Key using switch plate or a big version of GrumpyMike DIY key. The coding is … well, I am not an expert at it …yet.