Physical Computing, Programming, Fabrication | April - May 2023
We built a functional Pittsburgh-specific Monopoly game by integrating a physical and digital board transmitting messages using 2 Arduino Megas. Creating a capacitive touch sensor with RGB LEDs integrated with a laser-cut wooden board and 3D-printed game pieces, alongside a Python application for gameplay and UI, the game both digitally and physically reflects various aspects of Monopoly including player money, rolling dice, purchasing property, paying rent, jail, and more.
Our objective was to translate a primarily 2D version of this common game which requires multiple physical components into a unique interactive experience offering increased portability, convenience with rapid setup, and immersiveness.
Team Members: Spoorthi Cherivirala, Tim Carullo, Allie Feldman
Programming & Physical Computing
Monopoly is ranked as the most popular board game of all time, with more than 500 million players worldwide. Like many classic board games, Monopoly requires a setup process before beginning any game, involving distributing money, properties, and other game pieces. Evidently, the game has so much appeal that many parents are willing to endure this tedious setup process and keep track of the game’s small pieces to play the game with their children. While there are many variants of Monopoly with a diverse range of themes, none of these variants explore an altered gameplay including digital interactivity. We believe that incorporating interactive aspects to board games, such as Monopoly, would allow for a much more immersive and carefree board game experience. Our Monopoly spinoff greatly reduces the number of required physical pieces without compromising the sensation of physical gameplay. In this variation, Pittsburgh Monopoly, players’ bank account balances, owned properties, and interplayer transactions are moderated and updated by a computer application capable of both reading and writing to the game board, which would connect to a computer by a USB-A cable.
Our idea is to create an interactive board game based off of the game Monopoly. The objective of the game is the same as it is in Monopoly: to be the last player standing with money. The game will be able to support up to 3 players, using a supplemental Python application to manage various aspects of the game such as how much money players currently have, rolling dice, and purchasing property. The purpose of our project is to translate a primarily 2D version of this common game into a unique interactive experience the user is able to immerse themselves in. To add customizability to our idea, we plan to simplify and translate the traditional monopoly setup to be relevant to people who live in Pittsburgh. For instance, properties will be modeled off various landmarks in Pittsburgh (e.g. Cathedral of Learning, Phipps Conservatory). By integrating a physical and digital board, we create a sense of portability, convenience with rapid setup, and immersiveness. .
Game Demo Video (with audio)
Physical board and digital board reflect the changes of
each other using 2 Arduino Megas to transmit messages
Pass Go: Gain $100, $100 added to PNC Parking
Money Management: Reflected on digital board
Land on Property: Buy that property if not owned, Pay rent if owed to the owner
Property Costs & Names: Displayed on the physical board
Property Ownership: Indicated on the digital board and LED
Property & Piece Detection: Physical Board
PNC Free Parking: Gain all money in the pot
CMU Jail: Automatically Skips 2 Turns
Fabrication (Laser Cutting & 3D Printing & Soldering)
Physical Circuit Board
We created the capacitive touch sensor with 256 nodes using 16 transmitter and receiver lines with copper tape overlapping in even increments to ensure conductivity, where the paper in between acts as an insulator between the two layers.
This required several iterations since the copper tape and electrical tape were flimsy and the initial soldering was not conductive enough. We ended up recreating the board multiple times, covering each line with copper tape on both sides then hot gluing the pins down to a firm cardboard piece. Prior to creating a 16 by 16 board we first experimented with smaller boards (such as 9 and 4x4 grids). Above include photos of our iterations.
Physical Wooden Board
Next, we crafted a laser-cut board so that each property space would correspond to exactly 4 distinct nodes on the sensor grid. The board was created using Adobe Illustrator in order to set the correct spots to engrave and cut.
Properties are all Pittsburgh specific such as:
Row 1: Pittsburgh Attractions (Phipps, PPG Place, Cathedral of Learning, Schenley, Incline)
Row 2: Popular Food Locations (Pamela’s, The Porch, Stack’d, Millie’s, Noodlehead)
Row 3: Museums (Mattress Factory, National Aviary, Andy Warhol, Randyland, Point State)
Row 4: Universities (CMU, Pitt, Duquesne, Chatham, Point Park)
To the left is the vector illustration file (on the right) and the finished laser cut board (on the left). The middle of the board is also removable to allow for future expansions with LCD displays and more interactive components. We also had to cut multiple iterations to ensure the alignment was perfect and that 4 distinct nodes for each property were exposed.
Distinguishable Game Pieces
Next, we 3D modeled the pieces in Fusion 360 (second image below) ensuring that each player piece has a different conductive bottom (first image) with a different surface area to ensure it would touch a distinct number of nodes, able to be distinguished when fitting exactly in the property spaces. After testing the pieces, the signal was extremely weak so we also covered the bottoms with conductive tape.
Physical Computing (Circuitry & Arduino, Sensors: Capacitive Touch, LEDs)
Capacative Touch Sensing
In order to convert physical gameboard interaction to digital information, we, essentially, created a capacitive “touchscreen” out of a lightweight insulator (a piece of paper in our prototype) and conductive lines, and placed this touchscreen underneath the wooden board. The cutouts in the board on each game square expose the transmitter and receiver lines, made out of highly conductive copper tape. As explained in the previous section, the dimensions of the board as well as the size and spacing between conductive lines was designed to read the shapes at the bottom of the game pieces.
We used “Multi-Touch Kit”, a library and tutorial created by researchers at the University of Saarland, to parse the receiver signals powered by the transmitter lines. We used a standard 16-channel multiplexer to fire each of the 16 transmitter lines on a cycling timer encoded onto the Arduino and applied 100kΩ of resistance to each of the receiver lines, which we connected back to the Arduino’s analog ports. Below includes the circuit diagram for a smaller 8-channel board which we extrapolated for 16 channels using an Arduino Mega.