Table tennis originated in England in the 1880s, was trademarked as “ping pong” in the 1900s, became an Olympic sport in 1988, and a conspicuous tech startup office perk in 1990s. Yet throughout the decades this analog sport has seen relatively few digital upgrades. Sure, there’s the classic Pong. And the company that makes Grand Theft Auto tried their hand at the game in 2006. A decent commercial upgrade for office table tennis called Ping Pong Ninja came out from Campaign Monitor a few years ago too.
But now the web agency Si Digital puts a digital-physical spin on the game.
They started with automatic player recognition. Si Digital added RFID tags to the paddles by drilling the small parts into the handles. Then they built a an RFID reader, complete with color-changing lights, which automatically adds a player to the game board– a flat-screen monitor mounted on the wall–when scanned.
The second part is keeping score. For this, the team implemented capacitive touch sensors on each side of the table connected to a Spark Core microcontroller. Each time someone scores, they tap the sensor mounted under the edge of the table. This sends a point to the scoreboard and gives an audio cue. The sound serves a few purposes, including keeping players honest so they don’t try to sneak in a few extra points.
On the live scoreboard, each player’s picture is displayed above their score. To accomplish this they used Node.js and Socket.io.
If all this talk of hacking the office ping-pong table is creating a competitive itch then you’re in luck, Si Digital open sourced everything, including the hardware info, on its GitHub repo. It’s your serve.