This is a long-term project that has seen several iterations, and is finally becoming financially and technically feasible.
The project is currently on version 3, now in the design process, with a goal of manufacture in late 2012. The original idea (described below) has been re-imagined and is being designed for manufacturability, which includes finding a reasonable overall price, and sourcing parts that are abundant and easily acquired on the market.
The basic premise is gaming boards that light up when a cup is placed on them. When a cup is removed, the lights underneath turn off. Because the board uses full color RGB LEDs, the person or team using each board can easily change the color and blinking patterns of the lights on their board.
In addition to manufacturability, another important goal of this project is design for hacking. The project is open source hardware and firmware, and is being build and documented on GitHub. Anyone with experience programming will be able to re-program the functionality of these boards. We will be breaking out the peripherals as much as possible to make modification and customization as simple as possible. A detailed project log and documentation will make the details of the project more approachable for all levels of engineers and hardware hackers.
Please follow our Beer Pong Sense GitHub repository for the latest code, schematics, and other details.
Versions 1 and 2 suffered from the fact that they were not designed for effective manufacturing. They were both designed with the idea of selling an entire Beer Pong table, but the costs involved in building and shipping entire tables made them impractical.
Version 1 used infrared LEDs and Transistors, placed under a transparent disk of acrylic to sense cups placed upon the table surface. Some of the cons of this design (in addition to those mentioned above) were:
- Infrared LEDs and transistors, even in large quantities, are quite expensive, relative to the capacitive sensors used in later versions of the project.
- The cost of assembling the tables, and affixing individual sensor modules to each acrylic disk was prohibitive.
- The tables took up a huge amount of space, and were expensive to build. I looked at the possibility of modifying pre-manufactured tables, but 7 or 8ft tables are difficult to find at reasonable prices and quantities.
Version 2, which was designed, but never built (though small demos and prototype boards were built) had several improvements. I realized that capacitive sensors could be used in place of optical sensors to detect the actual liquid in the cups. This is a huge benefit, because capacitive sensors are simply traces upon a Printed Circuit Board (PCB), to which a charge is applied and measured. Thus, whether my board used 1 sensor or 200, the price would be the same. Using optical sensors, the price increased with each sensor used on the table.