Arduino and ultrasonic rangefinders

If you've been following new media art blogs at all, you've probably heard of Arduino. Basically, it puts together an AVR microcontroller, supporting electronics, USB or serial for programming, and easy access to digital and analog I/O pins. The programming is very simple, using a language almost identical to C, and no tedious initialization boilerplate (compare to the hundreds of lines of assembly necessary to get anything working in EE 51). This seems like a no-hassle way to play with microcontroller programming and interfacing to real-world devices like sensors, motors, etc.

Another cool thing I found is the awkwardly named PING))) Ultrasonic Rangefinder. It's a device which detects distance to an object up to 3 meters away. A couple of these strategically placed throughout a room, possibly mounted on servos to scan back and forth, could be used for crowd feedback as we've discussed here previously. They're also really easy to interface to.

Update: I thought of a cool project using these components plus an accelerometer, in a flashlight form factor. The accelerometer provides dead-reckoning position; with rangefinding this becomes a coarse-grained 3d scanner, suitable for interpretive capture of large objects such as architectural elements (interpretive, because the path taken by the user sweeping the device over the object becomes part of the input). I may not be conveying what exactly I mean or why this is cool, but this is mostly a note to myself anyway. So there.


  1. Interesting idea on the interperative scanner. This reminds me somewhat of the Ideal Man and Woman bits from Holy Fire. Get some of these, a bunch of people, and point them at random bits of architecture, and see what gets scanned. Maybe include GPS, so it can tell where the user is easily as they wander about.

  2. For extracting 3D structure, is it easier just to take a stereo photograph and compute a depth vector ? I say this like I know how to do it... I don't.