Super Mega Awesome TV Show Tracker (Trademark Pending)
We present the Super Mega Awesome TV Show Tracker. A simple tool that will aid in keeping track of the progress on your favorite TV Shows. Thought as an ambient display, this gadget provides its user with a non-intrusive flow of information always available at a glance.
The components are two-fold: hardware and software. By creating an artifact in the meeting lines of both the physical and virtual worlds, we're empowering our users with affordances of use and visualization; providing a clean and intuitive experience.
While all the visualization is done via hardware, the software counterpart is tasked with the retrieval and organization of the pertinent data.
While Trakt's API is very useful, some modifications needed to be made for the information was ready to be visualized. Firstly, the API did not provide a "progress bar", per se. So, in turn we needed to traverse all episode plays to get the full watched count, to divide this, afterwards, by the total aired episodes for a given show. This task provides us with a big dictionary for each show as a key, and the progress as a value, values that we can then use for visualization.
One of the main goals of our display is to provide up-to-date information to its users. To complete this, we execute the aforementioned processed every 5 seconds, so when the time comes for a visualization, we are able to provide the most up to date value.
In addition, an update message is sent every other second with values for each of the visualized shows that, when differ from the one currently being presented, adjust to match.
Since the beginning of our design process, we agreed that we wanted our display to look as much as a TV as possible. So we designed all of our parts accordingly. While the outside of this gadget looks like a TV, the most logical way to display the progress of a TV show is to emulate a progress bar; so we tried to emulate this behavior using our show identifier and making it "magically" move throughout the artifact.
This means that the ambient way that we will be displaying our information is via the movement of the tags and, consequentially, the sound emitted by the servo moving it.
Our gadget is made of four basic parts: RFID Tags and reader, servos, pulleys and an Arduino Uno; all encased in a fully laser cut shell.
An Arduino Uno is the heart of this whole operation. Orchestrating the movements of the servos when receiving information for the shows, reading and transferring information from the RFID reader to the NodeJS server; the Arduino is in charge of everything. Everything.
To achieve this, we crafted a piece of C++ code to coordinate the servo's movements with the show progress. This code, creates an organized work flow to our gadget. Initially, when both meters are empty, we can simply scan a new show to display its progress; however, when either servo is being used, we then need to scan the show we'd like to stop tracking in order to "clean" the tracker.
To represent each show, we designed individualized, representative tags. These tags have embedded RFID tags in them so that our gadget is able to identify them as well as we do.
While full rotation servo motors exist, sadly, we do not have any in stock in our lab, and buying them did not seem like a very fun thing to do. We, however, did have the powers of Google at our disposal.
Using this instructable tutorial, we managed to modify three, one sadly died in the process of making our display; servo motors to function as continuous.
Laser cut parts
Due to the precision and reliability of a laser cutter, we decided to use it to make as much parts of our display as possible. Using it to fabricate everything we needed, from our TV-resembling encasing to the small ledges that hold the inner items in place, we were able to fabricate successfully all of our needed parts.
Pulleys and belts
Used to move the tag throughout the display, we made use of a set of pulleys and belts bought from here. However, since we were in the need of two sets of pulleys, and our set only provided two, we needed to make an extra set.
We cut four one inch circles from our set of plywood and attached it to a freshly cut mounts; finishing by attaching them to the other end of our display.
Our finished product is able to display the show progress in an intuitive and non-obtrusive way.
Please find pictures and videos of our project here.