“The theme for this year’s Social Media Week is Empowering through Collaboration, something close to our hearts. One of the things we are interested in at Imagination is things and how they talk to each other, what that means for our clients, ourselves and our future. If you read us regularly you will know about Activitea and our activations for Shell and Ford.
For us the Internet of Things – a connected world of communicating objects – is exciting. But when it crosses over into the social space it becomes incredibly powerful as a way of engaging people, moving their opinions and enabling them to converse with brands in new and interesting ways.
We have a small experiment/game we have been soldering all weekend! We have some brilliant speakers and we have food and drink. What more could you ask for? Maybe we’ll see you here. If we haven’t completely crashed by then…”
This project was sparked by connections made by Tim Brooke and Matt McGuire at EMFcamp 2012. They returned the following Monday morning with some tech and an idea. The tech was badges (more like lanyards) with an onboard Arduino Leonardo, RF module, an Infrared transmitter and Infrared receiver. Since Social Media Week was approaching and Imagination’s Creative Technology team were in full swing, a plan was devised to conduct a social experiment by counting the number of interactions at an event hosted by Imagination.
Logistics were discussed and prototyping began. It quickly became apparent that due to the size and weight of the “badges” we would treat them as lanyards. I mocked up a potential cover for the board, displaying the Imagination logo:
It was also decided that the shape and colour of the boards was not ideal, especially as they would be on show. Matt continued discussions with Charles Yarnold (who has been invaluable throughout the project) to amend the board.
Infrared, RF and the leds all needed testing, however we only had three boards. Using Arduino Leonardos and some improvisation with the RF modules we were able to build enough boards to test with.
Meanwhile 150 boards, lanyards and Plastic covers were all being developed. Estimated shipping time showed that all the parts would arrive 4 days before the event.
Sure enough, 4 days before the event (on a Saturday) lots of parts arrived. A team of us came in on Sunday to start work on programming and construction.
Firstly the boards needed to be snapped from their sheet (similar to Airfix) then the rough edges needed to be filed down.
We also experienced some supply issues with the batteries (coming from China). It was apparent that they would not arrive in time, so we scrambled 150 together – 90 from Charles Yarnold’s personal supply and 50 from Cool Components. The boards were nearly complete although they required the battery and RF module to be soldered on – totalling 12 solders per board – then boot-loaded and flashed with our code. On all 150 boards!
On the Night
Everything was ready to go with a comfortable 15 minutes to spare. Participation and interaction with the boards was great, followed by some interesting talks and a Q&A session with the panel. The panel consisted of;Jon Rogers – University of Dundee (@ileddigital), Mark Coyle – BBC (@markcoyle65), Dave Patten – Science Museum (@davepatten), Kel Phillipson – Imagination (@kelfish), Katie Streten – Imagination (@watsui) and Alex Trickett – Imagination (@alextrickett). The Next Web did a nice write-up for the event which can be found here.