AirTiles: a Flexible Sensing Space

AirTiles is called a “flexible sensing space”. Using a series of electronic disks that contained a laser, infrared input and output ports, and a range-finding sensor, the modules could become aware of each other and the space between them. Each were slightly smaller than a cereal bowl, and could be easily picked up and moved around.

To set them up, the first AirTile is activated by pressing a small button, which activates a single laser beam that is drawn onto the floor. When a second AirTile is placed within the first’s laser beam, it also activates and in turn fires off another laser. At this point, multiple modules can be chained together until the originating tile receives the terminating beam from the final module in order to create a triangle, square, etc.

Once a pattern of tiles is achieved, the space inside is then tracked by all the tiles. If something blocking their vision, such as a hand, a shoe, or other intrusion is introduced, the tiles will blink and make an auditory sound effect. While this may seem strange at first, I could easily see similar devices created for security systems, gating in outdoor pets with virtual fences, or even in a toddler’s play area.

Below: I show how to set up the AirTiles together by “chaining” the lasers together. While I chained them properly, I didn’t quite get the square array to detect my hand. However, the triangle array next to it sensed my hand properly by flashing and beeping.

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