Stress Relief Ball
Some people enjoy popping the plastic air bubble bags for packaging. But it is a one-time-only pop and not very environmentally friendly. Maybe there is a way to combine the stress relief balls and physical computing to make some fancy re-usable stress relief toys?
Turn on the sound for the video for best experience
I had this idea when we approached close to the end of the Fall 2021 semester, and I think everyone needs these stress relief toys on some level. The idea is to mimic everyone's favorite air bags from packing but make the toy more re-usable and environmentally friendly.
I started with the electrical components I need and some pseudocode. The idea is to use a force sensor inside a squish ball, and then according to the force, display some ASMR/stress release sound and animation on the p5 js.
To react with the force sensor in Arduino, I start thinking when are the movements that can make people feel stress release. Thinking about my own experience, I choose air bubbles for the first mode. I will try to implement the second mode if I have extra, maybe I will do the breaking instant noodles as the second mode. For the air bubbles, I use a image from google image and use Procreate to take out 3 status of the bubble: good bubble, gently pushed bubble, and the destroyed bubble.
I first build up the Bluetooth connection, read the sensor from the Arduino. Then I map the reading to a reasonable squeeze number to trigger the animation in the p5. The different values of the force will start the different animation for the bubbles. At first, I can only squeeze all the bubbles at the same time. After playing with arrays and matrix, I found my way to randomly generate different conditions of bubbles. Here is a video demonstration.
After the basic function settle down, I start to polish the project. I need to find a real squish ball to be my ball, and I bought one from amazon. But I need to cut them out and put the sensor inside, also they are not transparent. So I start to think building the ball by myself. I was able to find this project online of how they 3D printed a mold and then build a ball from silicone rubber (https://martinaltanie.com/ballrum).
Then I start building the ball.
03-2 Physical Interface
03-3 Upgrading RGB Led
Having a semi-transparent ball, I think it will be cool if have a Led inside so there is more feedback when player squeeze the ball. That is why I add the RGB Led to my circuits.
I solder the led to wires after I test the functionality of the code. And then it is time to build some extra components for this set. I use Solidwork to build the box of the ball holder. It is assembled by a box and a lid at the bottom. I 3D print the model, clean the support, assemble the circuits with the box and the stress ball together in the below video.
With the beautiful Led feedback and the p5 animation, I still think there is room for improvement. The experience feels different compared to actually playing with air bubbles, and it is not much stress release. I wonder for a while and then realize I am missing the sound of the interaction.
So I add the popping sound at the end. Now, plug in the set, connect the Bluetooth with p5, you can enjoy the unique experience of stress relief. When you squeeze the ball with normal force, you get one reaction (images change to the middle version of the bubble, led flashing, pop sound). When you squeeze harder, you get the second reaction (images changes to the worse version of the bubble, LED flashing even faster, and a different pop sound).