Ever Wonder Where Cool Interactive Museum Exhibits Come From?

[Victor’s] girlfriend works at a museum and enlisted his expertise in designing an interactive detective game for kids visiting the museum. The vision was for the kids to discover phone numbers that they could call for clues. Originally he planned to display the clues on a character LCD, but obviously it’s much neater to hear the clues in the handset of the phone.

Quickly switching gears, [Victor] dropped the ATtiny2313 and started over with an Xmega chip — in fact, it was our recent Xmega post that inspired him to document his project. The microcontroller is responsible for a lot of goings-on. It scans the key matrix for inputs, simulates the DTMF touch tones, reads audio files from a FAT file system on an SD card, and plays them back over the hand set’s speaker. Since most of the hardware is already built into the phones, it was not hard to fit his add-ons inside the case. A simple audio amplifier circuit joins the microcontroller, which is patched into the rows and columns of the keyboard. Take a gander at the video after the break to see the device in action.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/27451012 w=470]

13 thoughts on “Ever Wonder Where Cool Interactive Museum Exhibits Come From?

  1. Pretty interesting…

    For a single unit this seems like the easiest option….but I think using something FreePBX based and like a linksys PAP2 would be easier? All software, easier to program

    1. Hey xFred,
      Did a bit of googling on what you mentioned, to be honest I did not know of the existence of those devices. Thanks for mentioning!
      Anyway, easy setup was a requirement, everything has to be put in a crate after the game is over; this phone only has a power cord. Also, cost was a big issue, the phone was EUR 1, the amplifier EUR 4 and the microcontroller board approx. EUR 50.

  2. “Ever wonder…”? Ha! This is pretty much my exact career goal. BS in Electrical Engineering Tech and a grad cert in Museum Studies. I’m just finishing up that certificate now, and am preparing to dive into the job market. If anyone knows of a museum that might want this sort of thing…well… there is a link in my name ^

  3. Nice work! We (Presentations, Inc.) built a similar exhibit feature a few years back for the temporary Iowa Writer’s Workshop Exhibit in the basement of the Old Capitol Museum in Iowa City, IA [Image]. We used an AVR development board from Sparkfun to decode the keypad, an rs232 controlled Compact Flash audio player with files named as the phone number – 3382932.wav from a 3rd party vendor, and a payphone replica found on the internet. Users dialed a phone number (it played the DTMF tones) to listen to the reading of a writer’s work. Along with that we also converted an old typewriter in to a USB keyboard for a feature called ‘Keys To The Future’ [Image]. A fanless mini-itx pc running Linux is mounted in a locked desk drawer below and provides access to a related website displayed on a 23″ portrait mounted LCD acting as the ‘paper’. Nearby in the Diaries Exhibit there are two workstations featuring ‘books’ made of plastic wrapped with printed covers, they have embedded RFID chips inside. When inserted in the counter slot the RFID chip is read and content – A/V & Text – is displayed on the LCD screen using Flash on a PC, controlled using a large trackball and arcade style pushbuttons.

    We are a small group of designers, builders and hackers doing this type of work for a living in Iowa. If you are ever in the need, please contact us.

    You can see more of our work on our websites, blogs & social media –
    Presentations, Inc.
    Iowa CNC (Yeah, we hacked our CNC router too… It’s a ShopBot we converted to Gecko Drives, Mach 3 and a 3KW spindle, among other things.)

    Disclaimer: I work for Presentations doing the same type of work in the article, and I love it. I’m also an every day HaD reader with a never ending list of projects :)

  4. Interactive exhibits for kids are a real challenge. Are the phones sturdy enough to handle the abuse, or have replacement parts already been stocked up? Kid-interactive parts take abuse that would make engineers cry.

    Make sure to leave setup and repair instructions for whoever will maintain the exhibit in the future. One complaint I have heard from museum staff is that setups that fill two moving trucks have zero instructions and only fit into the packing crates one way (without a diagram) because the people who built them didn’t figure on the exhibit outliving the curator.

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