At The Turn of the Page

A lot of work has been going on quietly in the background for the Tome of the Seashore. The story is mostly developed, the characters and settings mostly finalized, and the electronics mostly finished. This is a status update to show what has been done and some of the process behind it.

Arduino + TouchDesigner = Electronic Fun

One of the biggest challenges of making a digital pop-up book has actually been engineering a circuit that can register page turns. This is because the circuit design has to meet several criteria all at once. For one thing, it needs to be discreet – not one wire can be visible to the reader and all components have to fit inside the book. For another, it needs to be able to register only one page at a time – if multiple page turns are registered at once there's no way for the code to discern which page is of a higher priority. Lastly, and most of all, it has to register each page regardless of what order the reader progresses in.

An early version of this unusual binding technique which used a support structure on the back. Since the support didn't work, the pages are instead held together directly with adhesives.

An early version of this unusual binding technique which used a support structure on the back. Since the support didn't work, the pages are instead held together directly with adhesives.

Part of the solution was to change the way the book will be bound. Instead of stacking the signatures on top of each other, each page spread is slightly offset from the previous one by ~.25 inch and the backs of each spread are glued together. As one page is turned it pulls the others with it about ~.5 inch per page. Because of this, we can measure the distance the last page has traveled and use that to determine which page is open. This fits the small footprint requirement because the last page only travels ~2.5 inches at maximum.

The current variation of a guide track that functions reliably using only flat materials like copper, paper, tape, and photo adhesive.

The current variation of a guide track that functions reliably using only flat materials like copper, paper, tape, and photo adhesive.

There are two pieces to the electronic registry: the register and the guide track. The guide track weaves in and out of the register and has an exposed copper strip ~.25 sq inches in area that connects to ground. When that strip comes into contact with one of the five leads on the register, it completes a circuit between the book and the Arduino which uses pins 2-7 to connect to leads 1-5.

One of the advantages of using an Arduino is that it allows us to simulate the use of a pull-down resistor using INPUT_PULLDDOWN in pinMode(). This significantly reduces the necessary size of the registry because it removes the need for physical resistors. Instead, the Arduino reads a completed circuit as LOW, incomplete as HIGH, and in code those signals are inverted. Only one page is ever open at a time, the footprint is small, and it doesn't matter in what order the pages are turned – the Arduino will always report the correct page. 

TouchDesigner knows what page I'm on right now. And I only have six wires running to the Arduino.

TouchDesigner knows what page I'm on right now. And I only have six wires running to the Arduino.

Lastly, the Arduino prints whichever page is open to a serial port which is read by a Serial DAT in TouchDesigner.

Paper

No pop-ups are finalized yet but here is a picture of some incomplete Escher stairs for the cave scene which were made in Inkscape using the same design as the regular stair pop-up in this video. Many (many!) other designs have been attempted and scrapped due to complexity and reliability.

And here is a prototype for an inverted waterfall that will form the basis of the designs of the windows on page one and the tree that hides the witch's house on page three.


Artwork

Some concept art and some vectors in progress.

Story

Technically, because the actual first page can't be registered, it will be used as an inside cover. There will be an envelope with the words “Important” and inside will be three cards: a ball of yarn, a key, and some salt-water taffy.

(Page One: a room in a medieval castle) You awake in your bedroom. Of course you do. Why would you wake up anywhere else? 
(Page Two: a giant sand castle at the beach) It's a beautiful day. You admire your castle. You admire your kingdom. But was it always here? Where did it come from, and who lived here first?
(Page Three: a dark forest illuminated by tungsten light bulb flowers and trees with shadowy faces) Strange creatures hide here. Strange creatures and strange trees.
(Page Three: upon discovering the witch in her house behind a pull tab) 1st Time: “Go away! We're closed!” 2nd Time: “Save yourself! The end is near!” 3rd Time: “Where did I put that key?” 4th Time: “I've got enough candy and canned goods to last me years in this place!”
(Page Four: snowy mountains where a catfish glides around the the mountain peaks, also a large headstone) A fearsome beast guards this place jealously. What does he guard here? Why?
(Page Four: upon placing yarn near headstone, opening a an arch in the side of the mountains) A secret door, a secret path. Where does it lead? Where does it go?
(Page Five: an underground cave with Escher-esque stairs) What did they find on a shipwreck long ago? What did they hide underground? Is this the end? No, not even close. Hear him – underground – gnawing bones.
(Page Five: upon placing key near key hole, a Seaweed monster comes out from the stairs and travels out the cave.) 

Time depending, this may end up being the actual ending of the book. At this point, all the projections change.

(Page Four: all is dark, now, the flying catfish lies at the base of the mountains, still, only his tail is visible )
(Page Three: the trees all have scared faces now, the witch has her windows shut)
(Page Two: small sea creatures rise from the ocean, the seaweed monster circles in the air above one of the sandcastle spires)
(Page One: the red eyes of the monster can be seen glaring through the windows)
(Page One: upon opening the windows, the monster glides in)
(Page One: upon placing the taffy near the monster, the monster explodes)

At this point, every page except page one is blacked out.

(Page One: the room is now modern. The window is now a wardrobe, inside of which is a doll that looks like the monster) A dream, of course, it wasn't real! You're safe and sound. It seems, once again, you've let your imagination run away with you.