Oct 22, 2015 | By Alec

Many previous projects have proven that 3D printing technology is perfect for manufacturing video games or even reimaging existing ones, but what about the ultimate classic? Is Tetris beyond the reach of 3D printers? Well, Danish students Anders Høedholt and Sille Agerbæk Sørensen from Aarhus University have done exactly that, reimaging Tetris. And no, not with 3D printed building blocks. To add a whole new dimension to the ultimate game, they have built a 3D printed controller for Tetris that requires movement, rather than buttons, to twist and move the blocks into position.

As Anders explains to 3ders.org, this PIXEL:SQUARE project was done for a class in 3D prototyping in the IT Product Development department of Aarhus University. Inspiration came from the increasing interest in how people interact with video games. ‘Attention on things like Virtual Reality and gesture recognition seems to bring a whole new dimension into gameplay. Frameworks have been made for analyzing whether a certain gameplay is engaging and there are theories concerning what makes different approaches to interaction and experiences successful. We want to explore how different approaches to the gameplay experience can change the classical game of Tetris,’ the students say. And with an eye on simple gaming in a dorm lounge, a simple and challenging compact controller seemed like a perfect option.

But as anybody who has ever played Tetris (and who hasn’t?) will tell you, the basic commands for tetris are very simple so the students set out the find a way of adding an extra dimension to that stream of commands. ‘We want to appeal to a sensory curiosity using several forms of feedback and incorporate well-known metaphors in the interface. We want to give the game an extra dimension by making the interaction challenging, hereby making it easy to learn and hard to master,’ they say.

After sketching a series of models, they built some physical foam shapes to see how things felt, looked and moved. ‘The benefit of having a physical representation of your idea, is that you get a feeling of how the product is to hold. Hereby it is also much easier to explore ergonomic aspects and how the shape fits the purpose of the product. In our case, we were building a game controller, and it was therefore important that the shape affords to be held, and at the same time supports the interactions to be made with it,’ they say. After making three models and looking at the pros and cons, they settled on a final concept and designed that in Rhino CAD software.

This model was subsequently 3D printed in nylon, on the EOS Formiga P110 SLS printer at the 3D lab in the Aarhus School of Architecture. After some post-processing, including sanding, priming and painting, the guys realized that they were missing something: handles. ‘So we turned to sketching again to explore the different possibilities of making the product more ergonomic, and worked through the ideas in clay as well,’ they say. Eventually, they settled on clever handles that attach themselves to the controller with magnets. Not only does it look fantastic, it also opens to floor to different handles and other modular options.

The result is a cool controller that features four different functionalities that all require a different movement action, and even lights up in the primary colors red, blue, green and yellow whenever another one is applied. ‘After trying a couple of the lid options with a couple of users, including a rounded surface and a simple flat surface, we found that the latter was more successful. To diffuse the light from the LEDs, we used a layer of white plexiglass integrated in the lid,’ they say. A small vibration motor also creates vibrations whenever the control mechanisms are changed.

Aside from the LEDS and the vibration motor, they used a mini microcontroller (similar to an Arduino Uno), a 9 Degrees of Freedom accelerometer / compass / gyroscope, a802.11g WiFi module. a 315 MHz radio transmitter, and a Hall Effect Switch. The whole contraption is powered with a Lithium Ion Polymer Battery at 2500 mAH, enabling 10 hours of consistent use. A USB port for recharging is also included.

The result is a fun controller that adds an extra level of difficulty to Tetris, as it really just works differently than before. Check out he results in the clip below. The students who functioned as test subjects were also positive. ‘It was mentioned that the lag made it really hard to control even without the randomness, but that they liked the actual idea of it. With a bit of tweaking, the lag had later on been largely resolved, however,’ they say. Some students even recommended a using it during a drinking game.

 

 

 

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