National Instruments – Flying Nerf Dart Board

“What could you create to introduce our new servo motors and drives on stage in front of 3000 people?”

That was the challenge from National Instruments and our very first project at Sisu.

How about a machine that uses high speed cameras and moves a target in less than 100 milliseconds so the player gets a “bullseye” every time? Was it even possible or had Sisu bitten off more than it could chew right out of the gate?

We started by going to our local Target store and buying one of every model of Nerf gun that looked promising, ultimately settling on the Vulcan shown here.

After measuring the speed of the darts by shooting them across a white board and taking video, high speed cameras and lights were selected. A unique retro-reflective material (the same stuff used in road signs) was fastened to the underside of a retractable hood to create a “backlight” and silhouette the dart.

How do you move a target that fast? Massive servo motors and a delicately light, four bar, aluminum linkage proved to be the answer. As the dart flies in, the cameras look up in stereo vision like a pair of wide-set eyes and calculate the speed and trajectory of the dart. The motors then move the target to the intercept location. An innovative fabric sensor registers the impact of the dart and triggers a set of unique sound effects like a bullet ricochet or light saber clash.

National Instruments was extremely pleased with the demo and Sisu had made its debut.

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