Laser Dance Pad

[A. Smyth] passed this along – it’s another take on the non-mechanical dance pad. The first prototype used IR detection, but apparently the hardware was flaky. The new version uses cheap laser pointer style diodes with photo detectors. Personally, I want to see one that breaks the laser into a line and collimates the resulting beam, and senses beam interference by measuring the intensity. (And it would look incredible with a fogger) The electronics are pretty simple – the photocells are interfaced with the guts of a USB game pad and breaking the beam creates a button push.

21 thoughts on “Laser Dance Pad

  1. forgive me if i sound critical but… is this a hack?

    looks more like a budding internet website dedicated to selling DIY kits……is it just me or does anybody else get this?

    did i miss something? cause if this is the hack for the day it really blows…..

  2. Is it just me, or does this have a major problem. Namely that it can only detect a single foot, step, whatever you want to call it. If you have two feet interrupting the beams it becomes impossible to figure out where both feet are.

  3. I don’t think having two feet breaking the same beam would be a problem. it would just be like standing on one button with two feet with a normal pad. looks like four separate detectors and there are only four buttons in Stepmania…not that I play or anything…
    also says there might be a detailed construction guide if people ask for it…sounds like a hack to me
    mr.jones needed the 3rd option on thier feedback “Neither, I am filled with naught but hate.” that s my fav anyway

  4. What #3 is saying is that, for example, if you step in two opposite corners, you break all the beams, so it’s impossible to tell which corners you’re stepping in.

  5. hey Will what happened to being back logged with Hacks.
    I sent in a site about Anodizing Aluminum. Great for Home Brew aluminum Heat sinks and other projects. I didnt see word one about that.

  6. This has a couple of problems, for one the more advanced DDR player need to keep up with the screen, this means that often their foot never leaves the dance pad it just relieves pressure and pushes back down again. with this device it would be like they never let go of the button.

    Another thing that is very important to more advanced DDR players is the variation in height between the button and non-button areas on the dance platform. Buttons in the arcade are sunk by a few mm and this little difference is vital to determining your position without looking away from the screen.

    I see a lot of “unique” ways to build a DDR pad, a someone who plays DDR daily I’ve researched many of them before and simply abandoned the idea once it was determined to be unsuitable.

    I’m all for “hacks” as as much as some hacks are useless I’ve always felt the ultimate goal to be expanded functionality of an original design. I guess I don’t understand the point of a completely fabricated device with less functionality then the device it emulates.

  7. Exactly. You don’t step in corners on most pads. You can break the bottom beam, the top beam, the left beam or the right beam. I guess if you really want to get fancy you can break left and bottom with one foot at the same time. are there any stepmania purists who would think that is cheating :-)

  8. @hargobind,
    The correct method to deal with this is only scan one cell at a time, and do it quickly.

    eg:The problem: cant determine whether its top left or top right that is pressed…

    [X| ]

  9. ARG it truncated my reply!!!
    Basicaly, only listen to one point at a time.
    if got a 2×2 grid, then if you only look at top, and buttons pressed are top left and bottom right, then will show left at bottom, not right from the bottom right… led grids also use this, cause if you apply power to them directly, then it will light up all 4… basically this idea in reverse… scan at high frequencies obviously…

  10. Just my 2 cents here. It’s not really a good idea to bitch to much about something you don’t contribute to. It’s not easy running a community driven site that is dependent on other peoples content. Sometimes there are dry spells, other times there are more interesting projects that come along that push your submissions out to the scrap heap because they then are old news. One cool thing about hackaday you need to remember is that they often bring you the projects and hacks first. Being on that leading edge to a community with differing tastes and interests makes it awful hard to please you all. If you don’t like what you see then go freaking build something and post it. If you’re not actively contributing to the sites overall successes then you probably don’t have much clout to use to enforce a change anyway.

    Jared Bouck

  11. Love this statement from the website :
    “Using lasers instead of infrared LEDs make this project 23% more cool”

    To which I would add
    “Including a fog machine and adding nozzles or holes to the frame would increase the coolness factor by another 82%”

  12. I had this idea a long time ago. Only difference was that it would be “portable” in the sense that the bars could be disassembled (much like the folding chairs that fit neatly into their bag).

  13. I play a fair amount of DDR on my MAME cabinet — and I play well enough that my cheapo soft pads have become the limiting factor to improvement. I have been wanting to build some good pads for a long time so I read this article with interest.

    I see tremendous problems with this design, though. Some I believe can be remedied but others are going to be much more difficult. Thee first and most major problem is that the design lacks every single feature that a good DDR player relies on to position themselves — the edges between buttons can be felt with your feet on any soft or hard pad I’ve ever played on and it’s critical for there to be some kind of tactile indication there. I believe you could fix this problem by building a thin substructure underneath the pad to give the player something they can feel with their feet rather than just relying on some kind of invisible (or tape) grid to tell them where their feet are.

    The second big problem is that the pads design gives it a very large raised edge. I can say with some certainty that if I played on this pad I would trip on the edge and fall. I have big feet and go ‘outside the lines’ a whole lot. Other people might not have this problem.

    The third problem is that you have to break the beam to register — so you have to put your foot dead center on the beams axis to get the step to trigger. On a real pad you can register the step by pressing on the very edge of a pad. This is an absolutely critical feature for advanced players.

    The last major problem I see is that technically the pad is open for cheating since you can trigger two of the standard arrows by stepping into a corner. Although some people (particularly advanced ITG players) are fairly adept at triggering two pads with one foot anyway, taking it down to this level of ease is a little much. I think this problem is solvable too though — but to keep a design without an interior frame, you would need more beams to make it work.

    The last (minor) gripe is that you cant play anything other than 4-button songs. Again more lasers or a different beam design could enable this but it’s still going to be easier to use mechanical switches.

    I think that if you really want to build a solid state optical pad the best way would be to use take a cue from the multitouch builders out there and use (fairly thick) polycarbonate steps that are illuminated from the side with IR. When an object is in contact with this from the top it should reflect a lot more IR down underneath than the blank panel would. Using an IR sensitive phototransistor or photoresistor and some nice little PIC code that compares the input of these to a baseline calibration reading of the empty pad you should be able to build a quite sensitive and responsive solid state pad.

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