How to make a portable interactive floor projection system

So you want to make an interactive floor you can take places? We understand. Whether you're a DJ, an event planner, or a childcare professional, chances are you've encountered interactive floors and wondered how you can create something similar that's easy to pack, transport, and set up on your own.

Portable interactive floor display systems can be purchased from a variety of companies, and they're great for advertising, healthcare, education, occupational therapy, sensory rooms, events, and all kinds of other applications.

Like you, the Lumo Interactive team is all about making stuff, but before you get started, we want to make sure you understand all your options. Below is a brief overview of the pros and cons of turnkey solutions, as well as a step by step guide if you prefer to build your own system.

Purchasing a ready-made solution

Turnkey solutions are rather expensive, ranging in price from $10,000 - $15,000 USD. Some of the more popular companies offering turnkey systems include:

Pros:

  • If you're a technophobe, or you need a system that will be operated by a large number of people, a turnkey system may be the best option for you. Generally, these systems are designed to be fairly robust and plug-and-play, with a minimal learning curve.
  • Games and effects are either sold as a package aimed at a specific vertical (education/advertising etc...) or custom created. Some of these companies offer an SDK, so if you have a developer team, you may be able to program your own games and effects.

Cons:

  • Because these solutions include proprietary hardware, they can be expensive to ship and difficult to have serviced.
  • There are also some serious limitations on the accuracy of the tracking, because generally the sensors are mounted at an extreme angle in order to keep them in the same box as the projector and the computer. Because of this, the sensor that tracks the motion isn't as accurate as a top-down sensor would be. (Experia has a camera that extends from the box, which improves the tracking quite a bit, but because it only extends a small distance, the size of the interactive area is limited.)
  • Beware monthly fees - because these companies take on the risk of maintaining the hardware as well as the software for these units, they generally charge pretty hefty monthly fees to continue operation, or have leasing agreements for the complete units.

Making your own portable interactive floor display

For the purposes of this guide, we'll be using Lumo Play software, (since that's the platform we know best), but TouchMagix offers a software-only solution as well (although the annual fee is significantly more expensive). If you're particularly handy with code, there are a lot of really cool projects available on Github and the OpenCV library. (Here's a cool project called Eminentia that's worth checking out.)

How much will this cost?

The good news is that the cost of building your own portable interactive floor setup is a fraction of the cost of a turnkey solution, as long as you're willing to do the work. After adding all the recommended products below to my cart, and accounting for the cost of the software, the total cost will be around $2500 USD, including all the optional stuff.

About the recommended projector

LumoPlay-portable-interactive-floor-projector

The most expensive item on the list is the Casio projector, which deserves some comment because obviously there are less expensive projectors out there. The reason we recommend this particular ultra short throw projector is that it has a mirror built into it that's really sturdy, and makes a huge image (around 9' diagonal when placed 2.5' feet from the floor).

That's what we're using in the image to the right. You can choose something else, but be aware that all projectors have a different throw ratio and brightness. You should try to find something comparable to this model's specs:

  • ResolutionWXGA (1280 x 800 pixels)
  • Brightness3,100 ANSI lumens
  • Throw Ratio: 0.28

You can use the handy lens calculator at Projector Central to compare different models of projectors.

What you need - required hardware

To make things simple, we've created a shopping list. All the hardware recommended below is available through Amazon, but you can choose something different unless otherwise indicated.

  1. Ultra Short Throw Projector
  2. Computer Stick M5 (or another Windows computer that meets the Lumo play minimum specifications)
  3. Wireless mouse and keyboard (if using a Compute Stick)
  4. Kinect 2 Sensor (required)
  5. Adapter for Kinect 2 Sensor (required)
  6. Sensor tripod with boom arm (required)

What you need - recommended carrying cases

  1. Road case
  2. Tripod case

What you need - optional stuff

  1. Folding table (to put the projector on, unless you can put it on the road case - more on that later)
  2. White foam interlocking floor tiles (in case the floor is dark)
  3. A length of rope, belt or tie strap (to help keep the boom arm from wobbling)

What you need - required software

  1. Lumo Play license and games
  2. Windows 8 or higher

How to set it up

Setup is super simple once the software is installed. To do that, follow the instructions that were emailed when you purchased your Lumo Play license (or when you downloaded the free trial).

Then follow these steps:

  1. Set up your projector so it's standing sideways (with the mirror pointing at the floor). Plug it in, and turn it on
  2. Attach the Kinect sensor to the boom arm of the tripod mount and position it facing down towards the middle of the projection area, about 8' - 10' from the floor
  3. Connect the computer to the projector using a VGA or HDMI video cable and turn the computer on (if it's not already on)
  4. Connect the Kinect sensor to the adapter, and plug the adapter into the computer and power
  5. Launch Lumo Play and go through the calibration steps in the software manual included with your license, or this video (the Kinect instructions start in the middle)
  6. Play a game!

Your setup should look like this:

Lumo Play portable interactive floor system

Lumo Play portable interactive floor system

Packed portable Lumo Play system

Packed portable Lumo Play system

You can see the Compute Stick M5 poking out of the side of the projector (it connects directly via HDMI).

My road case is custom made so it fits my equipment exactly and allows for a single cable to come out the back (there's a power bar inside the road case). There are no handles or bumps on top, so I can use the case to support the projector instead of carrying a folding table.

Having the road case custom built cost around $600 USD, and the company also made a black sleeve for the projector which secures it to the case so it doesn't tip as easily. This was important to me because I fly alone with this demo setup all the time, and needed to eliminate as much extra stuff as possible, but it does add to the total cost.


Chances are if you meet any of us on the road, this will be the demo unit you see us with. It travels really easily, can be set up in less than 10 minutes by one person, and weighs less than 30 lbs total. The best part is, the games look fantastic! The projector is bright enough to look great in decent ambient light, making this our favourite demo system to take on the road.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or reach out on the contact form for more information!