HANDS DOWN - Taking Interactivity Over the Top



Taking Interactivity Over The Top


Advisors: Eric Forman (SVA Physical Computing

Team: Johny Vino, Mia Darling

Roles: research, ideation, industrial design, prototyping, user testing, concept, video 

Categories: physical computing, UX, industrial design, video, Arduino, coding



"The world meets nobody halfway. When you want something, you gotta take it."

Lincoln Hawk 'Over The Top'




Human dependence with technology has made people less physically sociable.  We live in a world in which 'connection' more often than not means virtual and digital.  Technology has reduced physical contact with fellow humans considerably and created a future of challenging human interactions. 



Create an interactive experience that combines a basic human physical interaction with motivating factors that could keep the users as well as spectators fully engaged.




Arm wrestling is as primal as it gets in terms of competition between two human beings.  All you need are two willing contestants and two arms  It usually has less than savory connotations as evidenced by the amazing 1980's film starring Sylvester Stallone.  Why did we want to make arm wrestling 'interactive'?  Simply put, we were interested in merging physical contact, technology, competition, ugliness, beauty and a dose of surrealism into one weird concoction.  Plus we wanted to see our fellow classmates get whipped up into a competitive fury and have some fun after a challenging semester.  The dichotomy and incongruity of low brow arm wrestling mixed with high brow aesthetics and coding was what we found interesting.  Plus it was fun to see our cool coding instructors participate in Hands Down as their students passionately cheered them on.








  • The time and effort we put into our virtual worlds limit the time to connect and especially to communicate on a deeper level in our real world.

  • Technique and overall arm strength are the two greatest contributing factors to winning an arm wrestling match. Other factors such as the length of an arm wrestler's arm, his/her muscle and arm mass/density, hand grip size, wrist endurance and flexibility, reaction time, as well as countless other traits, can add to the advantages of one arm wrestler over another.

  • While sports fans typically don’t have any effect or influence on an athlete’s physical ability, they do have the power to make or break some professionals’ psyche and can enhance or undermine concentration.

  • 1st semester of graduate school in Interaction Design at the School of Visual Arts is extremely challenging as we are confronted with an onslaught of knowledge and tight timelines, culminating in zombified PTSD-like symptoms amongst fellow classmates. We need some way to release stress.

  • We live in an era where the boundaries between high and low brow are very much blurred.




From the onset, we wanted to make the experience as rewarding for the spectators as it would be for the competitors. 



  • Visual and auditory prompts on the arm wrestling base could signify who was winning or losing during actual live game play. These could be motivating factors.

  • Heart rate monitor of each contestant broadcast to the viewers.

  • On screen we could display 3-2-1 timer for when match begins to create drama and put focus on timing.

  • Display money purse and wins / loss record of each contestant.



  • On large screen behind arm wrestlers we could show a visual display of the heart rate of each wrestler

  • the struggle of wrestlers on screen using a simple visualization like a clock hand that sways from one side to the other based on arm angle

  • Countdown timer for 60-second time limit to increase tension.

  • A way for viewers to gamble on who they thought would win and become more engaged through a mobile device app that could be live broadcast on to the screen.





  • Consider right & left hand contestants when programming the sensor for winner and loser.

  • Accurate visualization of arm angles and heart rate

  • How to code this!




The relationship between competitors, spectators, physical devices, physical computing and surrealism all had something to do with Hands Down. 






  • translucent 'mat' or cover (silicone or acrylic)

  • balsa wood for base

  • Elbow pad support (red vinyl to emulate actual arm wrestling elbow supports)

  • Accelerometer (read movement of arms) or Proximity Sensor to win game

  • LCD displays to display winner and loser

  • LED light strips

  • Arduino

  • Speaker (to prompt WINNER WINNER! LOSER! LOSER!)

  • 3D printed or wooden handgrips w heart rate monitor connected (questionable)

  • Apple Watch (questionable)

  • Myoflex - Measures strength? (questionable)




'High end' aesthetics for a 'low-end' sport with hidden interaction details.  




We of course tested it ourselves throughout the process, relieving stress by grappling hands and fighting to the finish.  


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