Adidas Megalizer – Behind the scenes by Didier Brun

In the following article, I am going to outline a project that we have been working on for Adidas to help them promote the release of their sneaker collection MEGA. We've basically created a system that would allow dancers to create their own beat or music with their shoes. Some sort of modern tap dancing :)

Aside from this film, we've also build a real interactive installation in several Shops in France to allow real people to test and play with the Megalizer.

Requirements

We had to meet the following requirements :

  • the system needs to be wireless, worn by the dancer and should not embarrass him in any way
  • the system needs to be placed on each shoe (no cable running on the dancer’s leg, or belt case)
  • the system should remain efficient at a 6-7 meter range from the speakers
  • a very low latency is critical (max 30ms)
  • the whole system should handle up to 6 shoes simultaneously
  • no fake: the sound should be genuinely generated by the dancers’ steps

Hardware and assembly

The concept is rather straightforward: I needed two force sensors for each shoe (one for the heel and one for the toe), and a wireless transmitter per shoe to capture the pressure applied on each of the sensors.

I used the Force Sensitive Resistor from Interlink [http://www.sparkfun.com/products/9376]. They have the right square size, are super-thin, and accurate enough to sense the pressure of a dancer’s foot on the ground.

As for the transmitter, I just had a size constraint: I wanted something really small, capable of handling two analogical inputs: one for the heel and one for the toe.

Only thin components such as the sensors can be placed under the internal sole of the shoe.

The first transmitter prototype I built was using a BlueTooth chip (class 3). Although the result was satisfactory at half-a-meter distance from the receiver, the latency increased with the distance. At 7 meters, the latency went as much as 1/8th second.

Then I gave XBee technology a try: these wireless modules have very narrow settings, a low power consumption, and I was confident I could reach a minimum latency at a decent distance.

Once I had solved the range / latency issue, one of the major challenges was to make the XBee module so small as to be wearable on a shoe. As we didn’t have the budget to industrialize the process, all of the assembly was made by hand ;)

Below the two final prototypes before and after building optimization :

On each shoe, the module included:

  • A 6-pin dock to connect the sensors and charge the battery
  • A status LED
  • A switch
  • A 110 mah liPo battery
  • A voltage regulator
  • A XBee chip
  • Some resistors

Finally, a receiver is connected to the computer to gather the signals from all the XBee chips.

The XBee chip (the emitter) can be programmed so that it emits on its own at a certain frequency both analogical inputs to another XBee chip (the receiver).

The receiver is a XBee chip plugged on a USB dongle. At the beginning, I had a single Xbee chip to handle the signal of the 6 emitters. I became quickly aware of  performance and latency issues, due to colliding packets. To solve this, I put three XBee chips as receivers. Each chip was in charge of handling two emitters and the collision/latency issue was gone.

The software

As for the software, two separate programs had to be developed:

  • a server processing the receivers’ inputs (Processing)
  • an AIR application that interprets the signals, chooses and play the sounds.

The communication between the processing server and the air application is achieved by a socket server hosted by the processing server.

The signal analysis was not an easy task. My intention was to assess when the heel or the toe was hit. The major difficulty is that when the dancer dances or even stands, there can be significant shifts of balance from one sensor to another, without an actual impact having really happened.

I created a rather simple algorithm, which you’ll find the basics below:

  • evaluate the average pressure applied on the sensor during the last second
  • evaluate the slope between the current average pressure and the average pressure applied ‘n’ milliseconds ago
  • if the slope matches a specific percentage, assume a positive impact
  • lock the sensor during ‘n’ milliseconds to avoid any duplicates

The application offered the following options:

  • loop a sound after one single impact
  • the ability to stop the sound of sensor X when sensor Y was triggered
  • mute the whole shoe when two sensors were hit simultaneously (for a short duration).

To design the frontend of the AIR application, I used the Minimal Components of Keith Peters.

Photos

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

I did face loads of technical and hardware problems during the production and tests. Generating live music requires very low latency, and creating a shoe-wearable wireless system was a real challenge.

The dancers that operated on the video clip did train a lot to succeed in synchronizing to play the actual song.

Aside from the technical standpoint, it has been for me a great and fulfilling experience to discover the dance environment.

Credits

Film : YAK Films

Dancers &  Singer : Lamine, Laurent & Larry (Twins), Mounir, La Fouine.

Thanks to Keith Petters Minimal Components [http://www.minimalcomps.com/]

Thanks to my brothers Fabien & Fabrice for their help.

If you have any questions on programming XBees, on the processing server or anything else, share them with me in the comments: I am no electronics expert, but I did learn a few things on that project :)

Links

Sparkfun shopping list  : http://www.sparkfun.com/wish_lists/13870

Making-of full res photos pack : http://sidlee.didierbrun.com/adidas/megalizer_photos.zip

Emitter electronic scheme PDF  : http://sidlee.didierbrun.com/adidas/megalizer_electronic_scheme.pdf

Processing server sources : http://sidlee.didierbrun.com/adidas/megalizer_processing_sources.zip

Comments (35)

  1. Maru wrote::

    Wow wow wow ! I’m speechless, that’s an incredible work, Didier !

    Friday, March 25, 2011 at 7:26 pm #
  2. focus wrote::

    Very nice indeed, cool performance! Have the similar gas copper by dremel (verstip) at my home btw)

    Friday, March 25, 2011 at 7:45 pm #
  3. mrgnou wrote::

    Ca défonce vraiment, bravo :]

    Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 12:01 am #
  4. derRaab wrote::

    Great work! Nike hat music shoes too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uS1exujG3cY

    Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 12:40 am #
  5. T’es vraiment un grand malade dans le souci du détail…
    Bravo Didier, c’est vraiment très cool!

    Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 11:22 am #
  6. Fardeen wrote::

    Super projet !

    Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 4:20 pm #
  7. mr wayann wrote::

    époustouflant! bravo!

    Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 8:07 pm #
  8. Radamés Ajna wrote::

    Hey guys!
    Nice work and doc.
    Do you have any video of your work properly functioning??
    I’m going to show in a workshop!

    thanks

    Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 9:42 pm #
  9. Alex wrote::

    What application, please)

    Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 10:46 am #
  10. MSFX wrote::

    Simply awesome! Great work :)

    Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 2:09 pm #
  11. Alex wrote::

    Please
    What Application for this shoes?((

    Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 10:01 pm #
  12. Didier Brun wrote::

    Thank you guys !

    Radamès > YAK is still working on a making-of video. More didactical.

    Alex > It’s a home made application using AIR.

    Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 10:25 pm #
  13. je rejoins vincent… vous êtes des malades ;-) mais c’est foun ! – ;-) -

    Monday, March 28, 2011 at 12:14 am #
  14. TarGz wrote::

    T’es un grand malade Didier, ce projet est juste génial, mais j’aimerai bien testé ce que ça donne en vrai

    Monday, March 28, 2011 at 12:22 pm #
  15. Jorge Dourado wrote::

    Love it!!!
    Great work! :)

    Monday, March 28, 2011 at 8:15 pm #
  16. Rojo 2 wrote::

    Wow!! Amazing project!

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 9:41 am #
  17. Tekool wrote::

    Bravo Didier, ça me semble être encore du bien beau boulot !

    J’imagine trop les problèmes à gérer la latence. Réduit ici en une phrase mais surement une des plus grosses contraintes du boulot sur toute sa durée.

    À quand une commercialisation ? Le prochain une chaussure qui fasse un flash que puisse détecter le kinect pour avoir une meilleure synchro ?

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 2:50 pm #
  18. Hicham Taoufikallah wrote::

    Very Nice I really like it !

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 1:15 pm #
  19. Jordan Husney wrote::

    As an engineer for Digi who has worked on our XBee products and designed many solutions around them, I say Bravo!

    I’ll be in Paris next week. Is there an Adidas shop where I can see an active installation?

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 4:53 pm #
  20. Brian wrote::

    It’s nice to see the future happening.

    Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 2:41 am #
  21. ADIDAS COPIED NIKE wrote::

    WOW… ADIDAS totally ripped off NIKE who did the original music shoe with HIFANA last year… they even copied the video structure!!!

    LAMMMMMMEEE!!!

    http://youtu.be/uS1exujG3cY

    Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 8:19 am #
  22. Didier Brun wrote::

    Joran > Thanks :) The next scheduled date for testing Megalizer is May 8 – Paris Rivoli. However, if you want to drink a coffee/beer, poke me !

    Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 7:02 pm #
  23. Didier Brun wrote::

    ADIDAS COPIED NIKE > Well, I think the concept of Megalizer is rather different. It’s a real product to allow dancers to make theirs beat while dancing (wireless & wearable). I invite you to test it if you come to Paris. However, as you work for W+K, I can understand your subjective point of view. Also, please, use correctly the ‘name field’ when you post on Bytearray.org, you are welcome ;)

    Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 7:03 pm #
  24. Ernie chen wrote::

    where can buy this system and software??!!

    I want so much!!!

    Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 7:14 pm #
  25. JGFK wrote::

    I would love to have those shoes.
    I love to dance, and i would even love it more if could do my own music with my dancing!

    Is there any chance to get shoes like that?

    Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 9:02 pm #
  26. Welcome! I thing that I can really play on this shoes. See my website because I construed playing shoes which play like midi percussion. I’m really curious how playing this construction. I’m a tap dancer since 19 years.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHwZK_o-Cvk
    http://www.peyotl.pl/tap-dj/155-tapdj-a-live-music-project

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 11:28 pm #
  27. Jordan Husney wrote::

    Didier > I’ll be back and free in Paris on April 15th. If you like, send me an e-mail (first.last@digi.com) and let’s get a beer!

    Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm #
  28. bruno imbrizi wrote::

    Great work, I love it!

    Saturday, April 16, 2011 at 12:42 am #
  29. Binh wrote::

    Hello, would you happen to have most of the source code for the AIR app? I have decided to use this mechanism for my talent show, but I’m a little bit clueless in regards to software. Please reply mysticcatastrophe@gmail.com

    Saturday, April 23, 2011 at 7:12 am #
  30. aashka wrote::

    Hi, I am trying to go through your schema diagrams and photos. I am unable to understand the connection properly. The duck which mentioned in you sparksfun shopping list and the one shown in schema is same? because in schema duck is having 5 legs!which xbee out of two shown in shopping list you have used in schema?
    which LDO ? sparkfun one?

    Friday, May 13, 2011 at 8:51 am #
  31. aashka wrote::

    Hi, I am trying to go through your scheme diagrams and photos. I am unable to understand the connection properly. The duck which mentioned in you sparksfun shopping list and the one shown in scheme is same? because in scheme duck is having 5 legs!which xbee out of two shown in shopping list you have used in scheme?
    which LDO ? sparkfun one?

    Friday, May 13, 2011 at 8:53 am #
  32. atomos wrote::

    thx a lot for the project!
    __
    ouu.. where can i download AIR application for the megalizer? (very interestion to see it)

    Sunday, May 15, 2011 at 12:06 pm #
  33. Hello,

    My name is Callum Mireault and I just had a couple of questions about the megalizer system. My brother is a devoted tap and ballet dancer and wants to add something unique and different to his routines, so I am teaming up with my friend who is a DJ to help him. We saw the video of the megalizer in use and I have to admit it makes me want to get back into dancing.

    So my question is, what other tools do you need other than the materials you posted in order to make this?

    Also do you have a recommended operating system for running the servers? And what other computer programs are needed to bring this project to life.

    Thanks for your time,

    Sincerely,

    Callum Mireault

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 3:12 pm #
  34. mike wrote::

    nice

    Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 2:07 am #
  35. julanimtic wrote::

    Bonjour,

    Votre installations est géniale et j’aimerai avoir la possibilité de la tester. Envisagez-vous de remettre en ligne le contenu ?
    Je suis responsable multimédia d’une collectivité en Essonne et nous organisons au mois de février un festival sur les cultures numériques. Une telle installation y aurait toute sa place vous est-il possible de m’envoyer un devis ?
    Merci de me contacter par mail devriendtjulien{@}gmail.com

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

Trackbacks/Pingbacks (35)

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  21. [...] t&#959 allow shoppers t&#959 play w&#1110th th&#1077 Adidas Megalizer shoes. Didier Brun’s blog contains a full photo set &#959f th&#1077 design process &#1072nd several technical illustrations [...]

     
  22. [...] com o solo. E muita gente se questiona se isso é realmente real! Então pra provar ai vai a Lista de Materiais necessários para desenvolver um semelhante a esses. A brincadeira vai ficar por parte apenas [...]

     
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