What is it?

Trapdoor is a high stakes, life-size chutes and ladder game run by a computer. However, instead of knowing where the chutes and ladders are, the computer randomly generates them. This means users are in a constant state of anticipation, wondering when they are going to get lucky, and soar to the top of the board, or unlucky and fall down a chute. This game works because we use touch capacitive sensors on the board to sense when a player is on the spot. The game will not continue until the active player moves to where they are supposed to be. (So you have to follow the rules too!)


We were inspired to created Trapdoor because we want to use touch capacitive sensor technology and an Arduino to make something really cool. We believe Trapdoor accomplishes this.

How we built it

We built trapdoor by connecting aluminum foil to an Arduino to act as touch capacitive sensors. The touch capacitive sensors activate when one touches the aluminum foil with skin (hands or feet). It sends a binary value, on or off (touched or not touched), to the python code. The python program then runs through game logic and utilizes this information to ensure the user actually moved. It also has a very nice voice interface that way players aren't constantly asking someone at the computer for the next command. We used pyserial to connect the Arduino terminal to python in order to make this all possible. As well as, MacOS's imbedded voice capabilities.

Challenges we ran into

Originally, our squares for the game had aluminum foil covering the entire paper. The frequency of the florescent lights above caused the capacitive sensors to register as on, even when no one was contacting them. We solved this by using less aluminum foil per spot. We also had some difficulty dealing with having multiple people on the same square. This would not work in our program because the capacitive sensor only can register if there is or is not someone, not a number of people. To deal with this, we made it so people couldn't land on the same space. Unfortunately we did not fix it so someone going down a chute or up a ladder wouldn't end up on the same space.

What's next for Trapdoor

While Trapdoor was originally just a fun hackathon idea, we have discovered it can be so much more. For example, we could set it up so that when someone tries to cheat, they get a warning, and then if they do not move, they have to donate 5 dollar to charity. Or, because it is all completely random, people could pay to play, and then win prizes if they win. In these ways, Trapdoor could be used for fundraisers. It is also a great team building activity. Trapdoor is super fun to play, and while it is completely random, people still get excited and competitive about it. Trapdoor could be used at team retreats or converted to possibly other life size games such as Monopoly or Sorry. The possibilities of this technology can go as far as one's imagination. Our game provides a unique user experience because the players can enjoy the thrill of being part of a life sized board game. Additionally, they become one of very few people who can say they have played chutes and ladders run by a computer while not wearing shoes.

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