Augmented Reality is working okay. But it requires an app, and a phone. Which could be pushing me towards a challenge that I've already faced, and haven't really solved: people just aren't that eager to whip out their phones and download an app.
So I'm adding a fall back, an easier onramp: something built around a gesture sensor.
Here's the one I looked at:
It's based on this chip:
What I like about it is the redundancy: it can detect gesture sensing, RGB color sensing, proximity sensing, or ambient light sensing.
If someone is standing nearby, waving a hand, or just sort of holding a hand over the sensor -- I can count on one of those things to trigger a digital signal.
Gesture sensors have the advantage of being a commodity product that has found a solid niche in one very specific room: the bathroom, particularly the retail/office bathroom.
Today, even a moderately upscale public bathroom (that is, not a gas station), can sport as many as four gesture sensors, in the:
- towel dispenser
- hand dryer
- water faucet
- toilet flusher
All triggered by a wave of a hand.
(Adoption of this technology has been slower in the home bathroom, btw, where commonly-touched surfaces aren't as scarey.
In any event, it's out there, and people use it. We all know what to do when we see this icon (available for $2 from iconfinder.com).
There's an industry name for this kind of technology: touchless tech. As in, Touchless Sensing Market Overview, Top Key Players, Growth Analysis and Segments by Forecast to 2023
Hooking up a gesture sensor to the gumball machine was not difficult. I set up two Particle Photons: one that triggers the stepper motor; the other attached to the gesture sensor. Wave a hand over the gesture sensor and the attached Photon alerts the Photon in the gumball machine: "dispense".
Looking ahead, I shopped for cheaper gesture sensors on AliExpress. I found a bunch of gesture sensors built around the same APDS-9960 chip.
Ordered two of these:
And three of these:
The price was right, under $2 each, but they presented some challenges.