Homemade Dance Dance Revolution Mat
It’s been a long winter. I love taking the kids outdoors, even when it’s cold, but sometimes, it can be fun to play indoors too. I haven’t acquired a game machine, the kids haven’t expressed much interest in playing video games, but we DID have fun playing a Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) type game at an arcade in hotel we stayed at once. What would it take to play at home?
Searching around, I came across StepMania, an open-source, DDR type game. I thought I’d look for a used mat on Craigslist, but when I started researching dance mats, I was surprised to see that many people actually preferred homemade mats over the cheap roll-up mats.
The simplest designs I came across measured the capacitance of the body on aluminium foil to detect steps. I took a cardboard box from our closet, some sheets of aluminium foil, connected the foil to some resistors, connected to an Arduino. I covered the aluminium foil with packing tape. What’s cool with this design is I had everything in the house already, except suitably sized resistors, so the whole thing cost me $1 (plus tax).
There’s an Arduino library (CapSense) that makes measuring capacitance really easy, and I found firmware called “Big Joystick” that makes the Arduino UNO appear as a regular, USB, HID joystick. Detecting steps works really well, and the whole thing works flawlessly with Stepmania.
What I didn’t get right was the positioning of the pads - it seems harder to get the steps/combinations right than I remember it being at the arcade. Lisa thinks they are too far apart. But other than that, the sensors work really well.
I’m trying to think of other applications where a large “switch” like this one would be useful. With the right configuration, these sensors will also sense proximity - not just touch.