Playful Interface:

Musical Staircase

MSc Thesis: University of Bristol, UK

"Use of gamification to promote incidental physical activity"​

(Arduino, Python and hardware design)

February - September 2015

This was the final (individual) project for the completed MSc in Computer Science at the University of Bristol.

I designed and constructed the setup from an Arduino Mega and Raspberry Pi. This was implemented at the University of Bristol computer science building’s main staircase, and left for future research and open day demonstrations. I tested several output modes, including notes (varying instruments), sounds and music (different layers added for each step).





I iterated on the design multiple times before making the decision to utilise two different microcontrollers together:

  • The Arduino Mega, with its large number of analogue inputs, retrieves the input data from footfalls on pressure sensors, and also interprets this data (producing digital data - foot on and foot off). This is passed to the Pi through a serial connection, as a constant stream of bits.

  • The Raspberry Pi handles the input data processing, data collection, and the audio output. It also provides a user interface and simplified data retrieval.

This data was also analysed thoroughly, with simple programs I produced in C, graphing stair usage across all interventions, speeds of ascent/descent (a measure of motivation), counts of people backtracking/playing, etc.

One of the greatest challenges was the scale of the interface, and the wiring required.

Stair usage increased by more than 50% during the interventions, demonstrating the potential of playful interfaces and audio feedback to change behaviour through short-term interactions.