Mixing Reality with DC Denison

Back in the spring we launched our Mixed Reality Challenge in collaboration with Fab@CIC member DC Denison. The challenge bridges AR (i.e. augmented reality) technology with Denison’s “gachapon” style machine that he built in the lab using our laser cutter and tools from the electronics workbench. We recently sat down with DC to chat a little bit more about his background as a maker and what inspired him to develop the components for the challenge.

Q: Who is DC Denison?

DC Denison is the senior technical editor at Acquia, the digital experience company based in downtown Boston. He is also the former Technology Editor at The Boston Globe. DC has had a long interest in exploring new technologies, from augmented reality, to the Internet of Things, to open Internet content platforms like Drupal, to the tools and devices embraced by the “maker” movement: laser cutters, 3D printers, and the Arduino prototyping circuit board.

Q: What is a gachapon?

Gachapon, which is popular in Japan, refers to gumball-style capsule machines that dispense inexpensive and collectible prizes and toys. You can think of gachapon as gumball machines with prizes, rather than hard, round candy.

Q: How do DC Denison & gachapon intersect?

The connection happened when DC joined Fab@CIC, located just two blocks from his office.

After taking advantage of the tools and the expertise available at Fab@CIC, during lunch times and after work, DC decided to build a wifi-connected gachapon to create a Mixed Reality Challenge.

The goal of this Challenge: to see if augmented reality, and the Internet of Things, could be used to engage customers at the excellent Render coffee shop that shares the space on Devonshire Street with Fab@CIC.

The result, today, is located at the entrance of Render: a high tech, American version of a gachapon, festooned with blinky lights, that will dispense a prize with the wave of a hand.

Many visitors to this busy shop stop for a few minutes to interact with the machine. And they are rewarded with an origami star which gives them instructions on how to take the Mixed Reality Challenge.

If you can find the augmented reality images around the café you will be rewarded with a free cup of coffee.

Q: How does Fab@CIC facilitate that?

Fab@CIC is unique in several ways.

First, unlike many makerspaces, it has a staff and a team of volunteers who actively help members work on their projects.

Second, Fab@CIC shares significant space with a popular downtown Boston coffee shop. That creates an opportunity to create things in the Fab@CIC makerspace, and then share them with visitors to the coffee shop — providing valuable feedback on new creations.

The result: an opportunity for visitors to try out some new technologies, like “augmented reality,” and take part in the Mixed Reality Challenge.

Look for more gachapon-style games and inventions coming soon.

Special thanks to our contributor Phil Kongtcheu for pulling this feature together!