Gamifying boxing with a special punchbag that allows you to fight Luke Skywalker? Rob Zwetsloot starts a training montage to check it out.
Did you know that the original version of Street Fighter had a variant where you could punch the buttons to get Ryu to attack? The harder you smacked the kick button, the more damage it would do. These apparently wore out very quickly, which is why watching Street Fighter tournaments these days is akin to watching someone playing the piano. Albeit with six buttons and a joystick.
What if you could bring this back? And combine it with other arcade classics and staples? Meet Richard Kirby’s Pi Fighter.
A new challenger!
“Pi Fighter is essentially a real-world old-school fighting video game,” Richard tells us. “The player chooses an opponent and challenges them to a sparring match. Each player has a certain number of health points that decrement each time the other player lands an attack. Instead of clicking a joystick or mouse button, the player hits a heavy bag. The strength of the hit is measured by an accelerometer. [A Raspberry] Pi translates the acceleration of the heavy bag (measured in G) into the number of health points to decrement from the opponent. [Raspberry] Pi runs your opponent, which attacks you — you don’t actually get hit, but your health points decrement each time they attack.”
It’s a remarkably simple idea, and it started off as just an app that used a smartphone’s accelerometer. Translating that to a Raspberry Pi is just a case of adding an accelerometer of its own.
“I realised it could be used to measure the overall strength of a punch, but it was hard to know how that would translate into an actual punch, hence the idea to use a heavy bag,” Richard explains. “This appealed to me as I studied karate and always enjoyed hitting a heavy bag. It is always difficult to gauge your own strength, so I thought it would be useful to actually measure the force. The project ended up consuming a good amount of time, as you would expect when you are learning.”
While Pi Fighter is already used at events, Richard says “[i]t needs a bit of tuning and coding to get everything right […]. It could be a never-ending project for me. You can always fix things and make the software more robust, the user interface more usable, etc. It isn’t mass-rollout ready, but I have never had it fail at a key moment such as presenting at a Raspberry Jam or Raspberry Pint. It (mostly) gets better every time I put some effort into it.”
If you find yourself at Raspberry Pint in London, make sure to do a bit of a warm-up first — you might find yourself head-to-head in a boxing match with a Jedi. Here’s hoping they don’t know Teräs Käsi.