High Tech Developers Compete at Low Tech Bluetooth Golf
A golf game controlled by Bluetooth-enabled smartphones is luring conference attendees looking to putt around in between technology sessions at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. The maze-like game is one of several interactive, digital carnival style games built by Los Angeles-based Two Bit Circus at the annual gathering of hardware and software engineers.
"We call this one Stearable Mini Golf, but we'll probably change the name," said Dan Busby, lead engineer at Two Bit Circus, pointing to the giant floor maze with a goal and a smartphone controller at each corner.
A player uses the touchscreen on an Android-based Motorola smartphone to control an Orbotix Sphero robotic ball connected by Bluetooth. Four players can compete at once to navigate their ball through the maze and into a goal.
"Bluetooth lets you steer the balls and have races through the maze," said Busby. "What's amazing is just how well these Spheros follow the instructions from the phone's touchscreen." The hard part for his team, he said, was getting all four of the phones to link up with each of the four balls on the maze at the same time without confusing each other.
Two Bit Circus built the game using readily available, off-the-shelf technology, but allowing players to control the direction and speed of the ball did require coding by the developers.
"It's technology that's available off the shelf coupled with user interaction that is novel is really how our company thinks about making games," said Busby. "We're trying to use off-the-shelf stuff as much we can because we don't want to reinvent the Sphero, but we do want to use them in a new, novel way."
Two Bit Circus was recently named one of the top 30 start-ups to watch by Entrepreneur. The magazine commended the company for its fun, engaging educational approach to technology, referred to as STEAM, a play on STEM, the science, technology, engineering and math education approach with the addition of art.
In June, Two Bit Circus raised more than $100,000 from the crowdsourced funding site Kickstarter. The money helped the group create new physically interactive games such as the handful being tested at the Intel Developer Forum.