The Friendship Game

The Friendship Game is a two-player interactive physical game which tests your "friendship" with your closest friend or the stranger closest to you by selecting shapes that represent how you feel about a given emotion.


Arduino Mega | RFID Reader & Tags | LEDs |

LCDs | Servos | Speakers | Wood |Acrylic


Ai | Sketch | C | 3D Printer | Laster Printer |  Acrylic Heater | Drills | Saw | Bandsaw

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The Friendship Game is a 6 weeks multi-disciplinary design project which includes: experience design, physical computation, usability test, user interview, visual communication design, and fabrication.


This project requires two players, that may be strangers or the closest of friends, to put their new or old found friendship to the ultimate test. The players will be provided with five identical shape halves. Then they will be given a series of questions related to their feelings on select emotions. All it takes are three correct matches for the players to be rewarded in friendship and candy.


We wanted to explore the complicated nature of friendship in a game-like way. Abstract shapes and vague questions represent the disconnect that two people may have while thinking about the same question. The friendship tests gamify the difficulty that it can be to achieve common ground and eventually friendship between two people who have alternate perspectives.

Team & Contributions
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All team members participated in brainstorming, user experience research, user interview, interaction design, prototype design, usability test, 3D shape design & 3D print, technical troubleshooting, etc. 


Tianyi (Me) – Fabrication, User Experience Flow, Physical Interaction and Visual Engagement, LCD display


Chunhan Chen – RFID System, Digital UX - Sound and Light, System communication, System Schematic


Olivia Kung – Servo Connection, LCD Display System, Scriptwriting, Schematic, Technical & Fabrication Support


Physical Computing Course Advisors: Tom Igoe, Daniel Rozin

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Project Timeline
How to Play
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Concept Behind

The original idea initiated from one of our random discussions about the unpredictable human relationship. Chunhan brought out her observation about the inconstancy of people's friendships and misunderstandings during conversations. I was really inspired by her observation – understanding other people's mind is hard, no one could read minds, sometimes even if we all have the same goal of becoming friends, there could be some misunderstandings and barriers in the relationship. 


Human Relationship is "none-transparent" because our thoughts are abstract and random. 


Therefore, we have decided to create a "human-machine-human" interaction to demonstrate this abstract experience. While in the traditional games two players are playing against each other or support each other, we want to create a barrier (the machine – demonstrate the human relationship) between players, even if both players share the same goal, the barrier makes it challenging to win the game.


By uncovering this abstract struggle between people's relationship through a game-like experience, we hope to illustrate the common social awkwardness by a simulation game involving two players. Such awkwardness is caused by people with the same goal to get closer, however, may still misunderstand each other.


Some other concepts we found are also interesting and but didn't reference:


Language & mind: how language diversity influences the way we think


Prisoner's Dilemma: people's decision making in game theory


We all agreed to make our interaction simple and open to a broader audience group. Therefore, our decision was to keep our value proposition as "Create a 2 players game which only results in a win-win situation but causes struggles in the process."





Brainstorming & First Prototype

First generation of our design

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During the first and second weeks, we designed several quick sketches to discuss ideas and technical solutions for our concept. At the very beginning, we wanted to make a simple "press button" game and made a paper prototype. The game expresses our concept perfectly but raised another question: "how can we take more advantages of physical computation technologies? " We also thought about designing electromagnetism which allows audiences to search for each other on a wall but technically, it was too hard to achieve with the resource & time we had.  


Design of the Prototype

We collected feedback from our advisors and classmates (by demonstrating our dummy prototype) before moving to the next stage and kept an open discussion until we were all happy about what we got. Our final physical computing solution was to use RFID reader and tags to detect players' choices; use speakers, servos, LEDs and LCD screens to engage user interactions.


We want to test the interaction system before we move forward with the expensive and complicated physical computation part, so we used cardboard to quickly mock up our design. It's a 1:1 size prototype to demonstrate the game-flow and user interaction.


We invited around 20 of our classmates & advisors to playtest our low-fidelity prototype. One of our teammates played as the host to represent RFID reader and servos, draw shapes on paper to represent 3D shapes, and little balls of paper to represent candy rewards. The playtest was also followed by a short interview asking questions regarding players experience.  


*During the playtest, we explained our design as little as possible to see how players understand our system and observed their way to interact with our game. 

Question regarding the experience: 

1. Did you enjoy the game? Why?

2. Did you know what to do when you heard the question?

3. How many rounds are you willing to play? 

4. Can you associate the question with the shapes?

5. Which part of the game made you felt confused?


Feedback Question:

1. How can we make your experience better? ​(What else would you like to have?)​

We asked our players :

What shape makes you feel like: 

e.g: powerful, ITP, anxious, happy, sexy, nervous...

Then observe user's interaction 


* We only filmed the players who gave us their permission to video record them.

Feedback & Observation

Most of our players evaluate our game as fun and engaging. However:


1. Some of our players got lost and didn't know what to do at the beginning of the game. As they sit down, the players didn't pay attention to the shape holder above them.


2. Around 50% players found it's hard to identify the function of the shape holder (servo shelf) or placed the shape not the way we wanted.


3. Almost all the players asked to play multiple rounds, no matter it was a match or mismatch.


4. Players who made more matches want to have a higher level reward to show they are special. 


5. Most players were very curious about each other's choice after a mismatch.

6. Some players made their decisions quickly while some other players would like to spend some time. 


7. Some players suggest that they would like to see each other to some degrees (eye contact, part of the body, etc...)

* we took terms to host the game, interview players, note observations and collect feedbacks.


Based on our observation and user feedbacks we retouched our experience flow and interface designs. 


1–a. We noticed the height of shape holder is very critical to imply the user interaction. We moved the shape holder into eye level and decided to add more visual clue for engagement. 


2–b. We redesigned the shape holder in order to guaranty the 3D shape would only fit in limited angles


3&4–c. We add an additional score system to count how many rounds players made matches. Instead of allowing players to play as many terms as possible, players could make up to 3 matches, after reach 3 matches, they won the game;  players have to win the game in order to get candies; before they make 3 matches, they could play as mand rounds as they want. 


5–d. We added smaller shapes with LEDs on the side to demonstrate their match results.  


6&7–e. We added "players ready" LEDs to indicate when does each player places a shape, so players know some degree of each other's movement without seeing each other. 

After a team critic section, our team has decided not to show any degree of each other. Instead, we place the candy box on the top of the wall, (instead of dropping them down) so players have to stand up to grab the candy, then they will be able to see each other. 


Design Principle

We redefined our concept and some of the planning based on the playtest





Interaction Flow

After a group discussion and another round of brainstorming to refine our user experience, I summarized our decision into an interaction flow.


Initially, we also planned to add vocal questions on top of the screen display in order to ensure accessibilities for people with low vision. Due to the limitations of hardware setting and time, we had to leave that part behind. ​

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​Technology & System Refinement

We used Arduino Mega and C language to develop our system. During Week 4&5&6, we split our role to develop technology & fabrication at the same time in order to save some time. Olivia supported me on fabrication, as well as Chunhan on programming; Chunhan took the lead on the programming part and put the entire system together, while Olivia and I worked on some of the smaller elements to support her (e.g. servo and LCD screen connection & display, help on debugging, etc.. ).

System Schematic 

We made a system schematic diagram as the reference of writing: ​


Developed By Chunhan Chen


Technical Challenges

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Reference: How to toggle the RFID head file: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzbZ5nIbq4k

System Usability Test

In week 4, we completed the entire system on breadboard. 

Chunhan did most of this part.

Again, with supports from our classmates, we did a usability test with the 3D shapes, paper-displayed questions, cardboard wall, and tech prototype to test user reactions. In this round of research, we focused on refining details of our interaction and system communications. 

Interaction & Usability test

This time, we focused on the system–user interaction & usability test. 


Our interview question: 

1. Could you associate shapes with our questions?

2. Do you think the question makes sense to you?

3. Was it clear on how we demonstrate if you've made a match or not? 

4. Any additional suggestions? 


Our Observation: 

Players' reaction to our system (sound of the beep; length to wait to play another round; how does it need for both players to grab candies. ) 


Patterns on how players choose the shape. 

(we noticed shapes with unique features tends to choose much more than geometry shapes.)



1. Modified the way we address the questions.

We listed 3 ways to asked our question :

       a. What shape makes you feel ...

       b. Which shape describe...the most.

       c. Which shape would you use to represent...

Based on user feedback, we choose "c"


2. Modified the word library.

       a. remove words with exact meanings, such as Superman.

       b. add more words to describe feelings& mood.

       c. set difficulty levels based on our tests – simple ones like "perfect, rough", difficult ones like "powerful, fancy".


3. Reduced the gap time from 10 sec to 4.5 sec; Reduced celebration time from 15 sec to 6 sec.


4. Redesigned & 3D print 2 of our 3D shape to add diversity.



I took the lead on the fabrication part of our project, Olivia helped me on assembling pieces, test materials, she also worked with Chunhan on soldering. Chunhan, Olivia and I worked together to test on the system usability, RFID reader's range and debugging.


Our major challenge on the fabrication part was to compromise our design with some of our technical challenges, In the meanwhile, we also need to offer clear visual instructions to guide users' interaction. 


Visual Design

Based on our research and existing hardware, I made sketches on how to arrange elements. I designed the fabrication based my graphic design knowledge – We used wood, acrylic to split the wall & functional elements; used color paper to indicate where to put the shape; we also place the information based on user's reading habits – from left to right, from "get ready" information, to results. 


On the other hand, because we choose to use to display our question in the format of "Which shape would you use to represent..." Our LCD screens (2*16 characters) were not long enough to display all the information. I laser cut the invariable question on acrylic sheets and left the LCD screens to display the changing words only.     



It took us a really long time to assemble everything together. We had to keep testing and debugging during the assemble to ensure everything works in a very stable way.


We kept all the hardware attached to one side of the board to better manage the circuit.


We also designed our enclosure as easy to assemble & easy to make any replacement (use screws instead of glue on most parts).  So that we could always open the wall and fix the hardware inside if there's any problem...

Test before the last step of assembling


Photo By Chunhan & Tianyi

The Winter Show

We presented our project at ITP winter show 2018, around 170 people participated in our game, from small children to senior people; from student to people from different professions.  We recorded some of the players with their permission. 

​Video edited by Chunhan Chen


Project Review

Our advisors, Tom and Danny was really resourceful and encouraged us to think big through the entire process. It was such a pleasure to collaborate with Chunhan and Olivia, our multi-disciplinary background plays very important parts in our project development, we were able to learn from each other and support each other's idea. Although we all "suffered" from the heavy workload and many technical & fabrication challenges, we all enjoyed the team atmosphere and had so much fun.