Software Scoring Machine

Discussion in 'Armory - Q&A' started by reawl, Aug 29, 2006.

  1. reawl

    reawl Rookie

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    After a long down time and a move or two I finally returned to my project of a software version of a scoring machine. The basis was from COWPaste's Flick Timer. I then learned what I could from the GNU Scoring Box posted by EricS. The idea behind this project was that lots of people have laptops or computers that could double as scoring boxes if they had the software and a dongle to connect to the floor cords. Yeah, a lot of you will say "I don't want my laptop anywhere near swinging swords.", this isn't for you.

    I grabbed some parts from Radio Shack:
    Parts:
    1 Male Parallel Port connector
    6 banana plug sockets
    1 plastic box
    25 foot 6-conductor phone cord, it would have been better if the conductors were solid instead of stranded, but beggars can't be choosers.

    Downloaded a driver from the internet to read from the Parallel Port in .Net and got to programming in C#. Now I've got a simulated box that does foil (hopefully Épée and Sabre later this week). I also ordered parts so that I can change the parallel port connection to a USB connection.

    The interface is not by any means a finished product. The screen shot shows the primitive colored squares for lights and limited (but important) menu options. I hope to make it scalable so you can make the box as big or as little as you like. I also want to make it skin-able so you can customize the visuals and the buzzer sound.

    I'm not sure how to distribute it. Fencing is my living (I'm a coach, fencer, ref, and now hardware designer). I feel like I should charge for something, but the whole point of this project is to make fencing more available to the masses and to better allow the fencing community to stay up on the new timings as they come out. I'm open to suggestions for pricing schemes that people would find reasonable.

    box 004.jpg screenshot_foil_beta.jpg
     
    Angwilwileth and sabreur like this.
  2. Craig

    Craig Administrator Staff Member

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    So, how low can you make the requirements? If you can get the requirements down enough, then an obsolete laptop could be used to run this and the cost would be pretty low.

    Craig
     
  3. Mitchell

    Mitchell is a Verified Fencing ExpertMitchell hi Staff Member

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  4. Beowulfman6

    Beowulfman6 Rookie

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    This sounds like a cool idea to me- that would sell. If you could make it so that there were just an interface terminal and a CD with the software and sell it at a reasonable price it might work.
     
  5. larkmaj

    larkmaj Rookie

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    I would agree with craig and beowulf. Old crappy laptops would work great. I think this would sell very well with the interface device and software. Of course depending on if you want to make money on it or not, you could even just release information on how to build the interface device and make the software avaliable. Though, why wouldn't you want to make money?
     
  6. shlepzig

    shlepzig Podium

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    Working on something similar

    I have been working on someting similar, with a Linux based box.

    (Have nothing of value to post yet I blame my too-long commute).

    Using one of the linux builds does reduce your hardware requirements considerably (smaller builds will load on even on 386 machines).

    One of the valuble considerations with the goal of the project was for the PC to give more feedback and a single light. It can record things like whether or not you were close, but not quite with that flick (or what is really happening when those points land and don't go off), and how close doubles or singles were (in epee).

    Also since the timings are easily manipulated with a PC. It would be easy to use it for particular training scenarios, and could be changed for left and right fencers according to what they are working on.

    lastly, I would add that there are plenty of signal out ports on the Parralel port that could control repeater lights.

    Shlep.
     
  7. El Chucko

    El Chucko Rookie

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    Will, you rock!

    For starters, don't be "too nice." You rely on fencing to pay your bills, in one form or another, so you owe it to yourself to charge a reasonable amount of money for this. I assume you are spending time working on it, right? You didn't just receive a vision from God, or find the idea in a forgotten manuscript.

    By nature, your idea can't help but be cheaper than a scoring machine. Nowadays almost everybody has access to a laptop. This idea WILL sell, as long as it works. Plus, once people buy the software, they can use it on several laptops. Keep the cable adapters cheap enough, and we have a winner.

    I would suggest making the software comparable in price to Fencing Time ($50), or maybe a little more, but definitely under $100.

    Depending on how much it costs to make the cable adapters, and how they look, I am not sure about pricing for these. You would have to be careful here, because it would probably be fairly easy for some people to make their own, or sell their own, too. To encourage people to buy yours, make them look as "professional" as possible. You may even consider having someone make them for you. Then, price accordingly.
     
  8. El Chucko

    El Chucko Rookie

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    Oh, yeah, and don't forget the potential for upgrades and updates. Start thinking as soon as possible about ways to do extension lights. Also, how about some way to do a remote control and a built-in timer?
     
  9. RoninX

    RoninX Rookie

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    You, as you know, would certainly be within your rights to charge for the whole package. However, in keeping with your egalitarian ideals, I would recommend making the software and updates available online and selling the physical interface. Lots of people have old laptops and it really wouldn't be a big deal to place laptop out of harm's way - or if you were so inclined you could even sell laptop hoods (read: plexiglass box).
     
  10. reawl

    reawl Rookie

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    Noodle is spot on with the .Net framework requirements. And since I don't even know where to find a Win 98 machine running on a 600 MHz processor I think it should be fine as is. shlepzig make a good point with Linux which could make the package (including dedicated laptop) a little more attractive, but for this project I'm aiming at an audience that already has a laptop/spare PC.

    Shlepzig also had some good add-ons, extension lamp port and actual tip depress timer, that I'd planned to incorporate in a later version since these two items don't cater directly to my goal of making electric fencing more available & affordable.

    The timings (debounce, lockout, and reset) will all be configurable via the menu so people can play around with 'em on their own, but will have pre-configured settings for Leipzig and Doha.
     
  11. Fishkillfencers

    Fishkillfencers Rookie

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    Integrate it with Fencing Time and do away with clipboards!
     
  12. KD5MDK

    KD5MDK Moderator

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    The Linux version running on a 386 or such might be more useful, in that cheap computers and monitors can be picked up for practicly free, and while they're not as portable as laptops, they're easier to obtain in quantity. Use the screen for time and center lights and the extension lights and you could have a decently nice local tournament setup.
     
  13. mrbiggs

    mrbiggs Podium

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    The problem with time is that you'd need a remote.

    Assuming that could get set up, with a network you could have scoring machines that practically ran a tournament.
     
  14. needle

    needle Podium

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    That's easy. Both IR and radio remotes are available, but I'm not sure if interference problem would be hard to get resolved.
     
  15. KD5MDK

    KD5MDK Moderator

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    Simpliest solution? Run a serial cable over Cat-3 (flat) underneath the strip to a box on the other side of the strip and place foot buttons there for the referee to step on. ;)
     
  16. needle

    needle Podium

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    Better yet - hook it up to 'Dance Dance Revolution' pad and add foot motions to hand gestures :D
     
  17. KD5MDK

    KD5MDK Moderator

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    Now it truly is a Mr. Roboto dance.
     
  18. reawl

    reawl Rookie

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    Epee is working. Though I discovered tonight that one parallel port dongle (there's got to be a better word than "dongle", maybe "adapter"?), isn't going to cut it. Foil sends a signal out the B lines, Epee out the A lines, and sabre out the C lines. This means I'd need six pins that work as both inputs and outputs; parallel ports only have 4 such pins :mad:

    So for my experiments tonight I just swapped the pins around. But it would be a pain if you were to have to do it each time you wanted to change weapons. And I don't want to complicate the design, so I don't have a good answer until my parts for the USB come in which will give me 8 in/out options, more than enough.

    Some of the ideas here have been really helpful, some not so much, but keep 'em coming. (DDR = "Dance-Dance-REFolution"?)
     
  19. RITFencing

    RITFencing Rookie

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    Not till Mauler's using it. :)
     
  20. Joe biebel

    Joe biebel Podium

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    It does not seem very economical, based on what a new "DOHA" chip machine can be purchased for. However, if a salle or a tournament used a central computer, running this program in a multitasking format with 17" LCD monitors for lights and perhaps also for scoring at each strip, I think it could be done quite economically.

    1 desktop computer.
    6X $150.00 17" LCD monitors.
    Cables,

    For the finals a 60" monitor that can double for "instant replays. Okay, this last item may not be economical.
     

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