Below are answers to the questions I got asked the most about the costume.
Jump to any with these links:
Who are you?
Since so many of you asked, my day job is this: www.FingerTechRobotics.com
, a store that sells robot kits and parts for hobby and competition!
My official reason for attending Dragon Con is the Sunday/Monday Robot Battles
. (They were held in the Hyatt International North room.)
If you want to actually COMPETE in the Robot Battles, you can buy complete kits from FingerTech. I'm happy to answer related questions at our FingerTech facebook page
How did you come up with this?
This year (2014) was my first Dragon Con. After wanting to attend for years, I finally got a chance to go! (If you don't know what Dragon Con is, check out this
video. (Embedded to the right -->)
Actually, check it out anyway. It's my favorite video on all of YouTube and it captures the feel of Dragon Con so perfectly.)
A week prior to the event I realized I would be joining the biggest community of cosplayers in North America and it would feel wrong to show up without something. With a limited amount of time the costume had to be quick, but I also wanted it to be entertaining. I had some LED panels and strips from earlier projects, so I figured I could program a cool light show. Then I thought it would be even cooler if it were somehow interactive. Needing a way for people to trigger the display, high fives seemed the most epic of methods. Because who doesn't love high fives?! Well that idea evolved for a couple days in my head and turned into the High Five Counter that you witnessed at DragonCon.
How did it go?
DragonCon was awesome! Everyone there is friendly and accepting and just there to have a good time. Anywhere else, a High Five counter would have people pretending not to see you or walking right on by with a single raised eyebrow. But Con people would make their way across the packed hotel lobby to get a high five. One couple said they ran down from the floor above to get theirs, and many others said "We heard about you!" (making me feel like a minor celebrity for the weekend.) :)
There were a few different categories of people. Some were interested in how it was made and we would have chats about Arduino and sensors and where to get LED panels and strips.
Some were just walking past and automatically raised their hands when they saw the words "High Five" in front of them. I like to think those same people would high five you on a busy sidewalk any other time of year if you asked for it.
My favorite was when people didn't realize there was more to the costume. They would slap my hand, then their eyes would get big or jaws would drop as the suit lit up and a number replaced the words on the display.
"Wow!! Wait, is that counting?! I want another!"
That kind of enthusiasm is what kept me walking the lobbies long past when a sane person who had to get up each morning would have turned in for the night.
How did you make it?
That is a closely guarded secret.
Kidding, I'll explain it all! Besides, if you see it again it's going to be uber upgraded. ;)
The high five sensors are simply a thin, springy piece of copper spaced very close to an aluminum backing plate. The movement and sudden stop of a high five is enough force to make the copper bend and touch the aluminum.
Wires run into an Arduino board that constantly watches for either sensor to make a connection. When one does, the counter increments and the RGB LED strips lights one of their colors and fade out.
If two high fives happened close, two colors would merge and make yellow, teal or purple. Three (or several hundred!) in rapid succession would light it up bright white.
The count was shown on a Dot Matrix Display (DMD) from Freetronics. It plugs right into the Arduino and there are libraries written to handle the fonts and other display stuff. The display is ridiculously bright so I had to modify the board slightly to allow it to be dimmed.
I also noticed in testing that the sensors would sometimes count double (even with switch debouncing), so I added buttons to allow me to decrement the count. It turned out I didn't use that feature much because the right-hand sensor wouldn't work half the time anyway. (The contact spacing was finicky and I just couldn't get it to stay operational.) So in the end the real number is probably ~25% higher than displayed, but I'd rather err on the side of honesty!
The whole thing was powered by an 11.1V lipoly pack, with a big 5V regulator to run the DMD. It all ended up weighing around 2kg (4.5lb).
Total assembly time: 1 day.
Total programming time: 1 day (well into the night!)
Does your hand hurt?
Expect for the Hulks who thought the counter was actually some kind of carnival hammer smash, no my hands are fine! The padded gloves did a fantastic job.
My shoulders were burning a bit during the walks because I don't normally raise my arms up hundreds of times per hour, but that would go away after a short break.
The worst was how heavy the vest felt after 8 hours. Friday I had it packed with a water bottle, two extra battery packs, a phone battery backup, a bottle of Purell, and some snacks. That nearly doubled the weight of the vest! That all got removed for the 19 hour Saturday stretch.
What's the record? / What's your goal?
Being the first time, the record was whatever was in front of you at the time!
I didn't have a specific numerical goal in mind. Heck, I didn't know if anyone would even like it, so I was super happy when it hit 1000.
By the end of the first night (Friday, 9pm-1am), the counter was at 2798. Saturday we got it up to 8742. Sunday we hit 10,000 around midnight, then I ventured out to a rave and grabbed another 50%. Final count was 15,098! So that's the record to break next year.
But my real goal was to make people smile. To that end, I am proud to report that the costume was a complete success. :)