PORTFOLIO > Hack the PopShop

When? May 2012

At the end of the 2012 spring semester, The Popshop, Cornell University’s entrepreneurial co-working space (which I co-founded), hosted a 24-hour hack-a-thon. My team, consisting of me, Jason Wright, and Sam Sinensky, took home first place for “Hack the PopShop,” our attempt to literally hack the venue hosting the event. Note, the hack-a-thon was judged by an impartial jury of corporate sponsors, so my management role in the space had no bearing on the outcome of the contest.


For our hack, we rewired all the lights and audio equipment in the PopShop and hooked everything up to a custom image recognition system.  The PopShop already had a network-connected webcam with an accessible interface for pulling off images. Knowing this, we wrote a MATLAB script that would poll the video every second and grab an image of the space (focused on the center table and the wall behind it).  On the table, we taped-off an area where we placed 3-D printed and cardboard triggers including a light switch, volume control, play/pause button, and track skip button.  As a user moves these buttons around the table, MATLAB queries the webcam to look for thresholded changes in the images.  Depending on where pixels change the most between frames, the script can make a guess about what physical switches have been  moved around on the table. The script then initiates the appropriate action: It can send a TCP/IP request to a networked computer controlling the stereo, or it can send a serial command to an attached Arduino that commands the lights via a 120VAC relay circuit.

Videos of “Hack the PopShop”

The video below nicely-edited presentation of the project:

Supporting Documentation, Schematics, and Code

“Hack the PopShop” is released as entirely open source hardware and software.   All materials are distributed under the GNU General Public (Open-Source) License.  Please Attribute and Share-Alike.  All files are hosted on GitHub.

GNU GPL LicenseOpen Source HardwareGet it on GitHub

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External Coverage of “Hack the PopShop”