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On the right project, some bad rust looks better than some good paint.
This is an older site that's no longer maintained (as of ~2010). For my professional site and contact information, visit AE Innovations. You can also visit my new site at It Came From The Workshop.
How To Make a Working, Real-Life HALO Oddball Skull
(or, 'the RFID Skull Project')
What The Heck is That?
The RFID Skull was a project of mine inspired by multiplayer in the game HALO 3 on the XBOX360. It is a bunch of electronics stuffed into an anatomically-correct skull. It lets players armed with toy guns (Airsoft, NERF, Laser Tag, etc) play a game that is a little like a mixture of tag and keep-away. The skull identifies players via RFID tags and keeps score.
How Do You Play?
Players each have an RFID tag on them (for example, taped to their chest.) When a player grabs the skull, their RFID tag is scanned and the skull begins counting time. When a player is shot, they drop the skull, and someone else is free to pick it up.
While holding the skull, a player cannot attack and is focused entirely on hiding/evading other players. This is "encouraged" by the fact that in order for your score to be counted, a player must hold the skull in a certain way that doesn't leave their hands free to aim or shoot a gun.
It's a nice dynamic for the game: it's everyone versus the person holding the skull. Except that when you get the skull you shift 100% to escape and evade and the role is reversed for you.
It's best played in close quarters, or a "town" type of setting. There are other little bits and features in there too, for example a loud beeping that notifies you when you are now the top scorer... and also gives away your position. When time is up, the skull reports the scores.
That Sounds a Bit Familiar
If you are a HALO player, it should!
I was watching my nephews play the Oddball multiplayer portion of the game and thought to myself, "I could make something that does that. We could play Oddball in real life with it!" About 6 months later, I was done. In Fall 2008 it finally got a playtesting outdoors. We used Airsoft guns. It was fun!
You appear to have gone out of your way to make it gross
I did that partly for practice in making real-looking corpses. And partly because I had an anatomical-study quality skull, and I could, and it looks good. Partly to cover up the holes and screws. But mostly because the actual inspiration (HALO's Oddball game uses a skull.) The skull is from the Anatomical Chart Company, if you're interested.
I am very pleased with how I was able to fit everything inside without having to add any new holes. Everything is either hidden (like the power and recharging plug in the upper palette) or uses an existing hole (switches in the eyesockets). Half of the work was the electronics, the other half was the physical construction. It was a big job.
I'd like to know more about the Technical Details
Here is all the design information you need to make your own circuit, and the code for the ATMEL microcontroller used as well. Feel free to make your own or modify it, or learn something from it! An image gallery is at the end of this page as well.
Looks like you have a Parallax RFID reader in there. And is that an ATMEL AVR?
Yep, the Parallax RFID reader and the small 8x2 serial LCD were obtained from HVW Technologies. The source code for the ATMEGA8 microcontroller was written using AVR Studio 4 from ATMEL, and the GCC compiler for AVRs. Other parts mostly came from Digi-Key. This was actually my very first non-trivial AVR project. I had a lot of help from the fine articles at AVR Freaks. I partly used my learning experience to write A Quickstart Tutorial for ATMEL AVR Microcontrollers.
I'm more of an Audio/Visual learner
You're in luck! Here is a YouTube video for you, and some images!
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