Chris Williams, 34, tilts a delicately etched wooden cube from side to side. His body shifts as it sends out electronic tones. It’s poplar. It’s organic. It’s electronic. It’s… a game.
The box, dubbed Coral, is Williams’ first foray into audio memory entertainment for the visually impaired. With wires and electronics hidden in a laser-engraved, wooden enclosure, the toy produces tonal sequences its players identify and match by rotating in four directions, similar to the children’s game Simon. Players can also use the custom carvings as tactile cues, he said.
Williams, a science consultant, and Luke Hottinger, a Carnegie Mellon University sophomore, wanted to develop a project working with the blind – originally something more utilitarian, they said. But they also wanted it to be fun.
"When you tilt it towards you, that’s one player. When you tilt it away, that’s two. Like, visualize that – when you want to signify the one player game or the two player game tipping it towards somebody else is making that connection," Williams said.
The pair will unveil Coral at Pittsburgh’s Maker Faire in the North Side on Oct. 10-11 alongside more than 200 other exhibitions, including a portable wind turbine, dry ice rockets, the world’s largest horned instrument, a search-and-rescue dog caller and a robot petting zoo.
The event marks Pittsburgh’s first full-scale fair, with exhibitors welcome nationwide. Organizers say attendance has been around 2,000 in years past, and while the Maker Faire might end up being a great experience, it isn’t free. Tickets cost up to $30 dollars.
The Remake Learning series is a collaboration of 90.5 WESA, WQED, Pittsburgh Magazine and NEXTpittsburgh.