Virtual Air Hockey Table as Motor Control Analysis Research Platform

Open Access
Bianco, Michael Anthony
Area of Honors:
Mechanical Engineering
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Joseph Michael Mahoney, Thesis Supervisor
  • Sandy Feinstein, Honors Advisor
  • motor control analysis
  • motion capture
  • goal equivalent manifold
  • inter-trial variation
The analysis of inter-trial variation in repeated task performance can provide insight into the motor control system and may aid in the early detection of neurological conditions (e.g. Multiple Sclerosis). The research details the design, construction and validation of a virtual air hockey table to serve as a versatile platform for such research and at a low cost through reliance upon open-source software (e.g. Linux, Blender, GIMP, and Panda3D) and off-the-shelf hardware (e.g. rotary potentiometers, Arduino microcontroller, and LCD projector). A user repeatedly attempts to hit a virtual puck onto a predetermined goal by means of a physical mallet comprised of a three-bar mechanism with potentiometers at its joints. Mallet-puck particle collision detection is performed and the puck’s initial velocity is calculated using finite difference method. Puck motion, including wall and obstacle collisions, is calculated by Euler method. A pilot study is conducted with data and is analyzed using a numerically-constructed Goal Equivalent Manifold (GEM). This research provides preliminary evaluations of the setup and pilot study and proposals for future development and application.