Care Package

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 2021-07-24

Description

Care Package is a hybrid physical/digital interactive exhibit focused on kindness. It was created for the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh's Kindness Gallery.

Activity

Visitors to the exhibit first retrieve an empty cardboard box from behind the large "Depot" fixture. They then visit the "Loader" fixture where the box is inserted and a virtual counterpart opens on the screen. Visitors then turn an address wheel on the side of the cabinet to select a destination, then add items to their Care Package by dropping physical tokens into a slot on the Loader. When dropped, these tokens transform to virtual counterparts on-screen and fall into the box.

Once the box is full of gifts, visitors then visit the large "Depot" cabinet and either drop their package directly into the side or crank it up the lift and watch it drop down. As the physical box passes into the cabinet, a virtual counterpart appears on the screen where it is then processed and delivered to the chosen destination.

Technology

The core technology driving the experience is Near-Field Communication (NFC). Each token and each side of every box contains a hidden RFID tag, which is read by PN532 sensors built into the cabinets. These sensors are read by a networked Node.js setup that both communicates data to local Unity instances and between the two cabinets. The Loader cabinet also includes a pair of rotary encoders for selecting destinations.

Thanks

Many thanks to the team members at the museum that worked with me on this project—especially Toby Fraley, who did most of the physical design of the cabinets and mechanical components, and Joy Cottrill, who did much of the work on the 2D graphic design elements. Thanks also to Greg Witt for support and advise across the board.