Significant help/direction needed for an installation scheduled for 2015

Hello there!

I'm daring to preface this call out by saying that I'm extremely green to all things robotic, Arduino-involved, and remote-controlled. However, I am not afraid of a challenge.

I want to fill a room halfway full with remote controlled cars. At the entrance way of the room there will be a touchpad device (ideally an ipad or something with a large touch screen). When the viewer touches the far left corner of the screen all of the cars will scramble over each other to get to the spot in the room. And if the viewer drags his or her finger around the screen, the cars will follow that path to get to the new position, etc.

I imagine that the room will need some sort of sensor fence to give the cars parameters of where to drive to next. Is this at all possible? My heart wants to create this scenario so badly! Someday I aspire to use this learned skill to control a quad ATV and a riding lawn mower in a field--but I'll take baby steps to get there beginning with remote controlled cars.

If you have an extra moment and want to see what my other artwork looks like please visit my website at

Any direction will be greatly greatly appreciated.

Take care,


An indoor positioning system is one of hardest things to do.
GPS can be used outdoors in a field, but not indoors in a room.
A magnetometer sensor is a compass. That is already one things that works well if not to close to electrical devices.
Can lights with different colors be used ? Or a number of RFID in the floor ?

There are positioning systems that use Bluetooth, but I don’t know if that can be used with an Arduino.

For the positioning I wonder ...

if you have an infra-red led transmiiter at (say) the North West corner of the room and a few (maybe 4) directional IR detectors on each car. If you want a car to go to the North East corner the IR LED would transmit a code. The car would know, depending on which detector sees the signal, where NW is. Then the code it receives would tell it where to go relative to NW.

Maybe it would be better to have two "locating" IR transmitters - at NW and SE - each sending a slightly different signal so the car would know which is which.

This is just top-of-the head thinking. It would need testing to see if it works and it may be useless.

However hard the positioning may be, I have no idea how you could make little cars that could "scramble over each other". My guess is that if they touch each other at all they will just come to a stop in an untidy traffic jam. I reckon they would need to go the destination in an orderly fashion starting with the nearest car.


One relatively cheap way of solving the position problem is hacking Wii remote controllers. They have a IR camera and harware to detect up to 4IR spots which can be fitted on the ceiling. The apparent coordinates are transferred via I2C and can then be transformed into spacial coordinates. This technique has successfully been used for interactive whiteboards with Ir led pens