Psydice and the Mega companion

Psydice is an electronic dice program for the Arduino Mega. It corresponds to a hardware I’ve called the “Mega companion” (of the Psybox). It has a small display with touchscreen enabled, an sdcard with content files and directory tree, predefined and definable “games” that can be played by a subject interacting with images, numbers and text, timer interrupts, Bluetooth 2-way connecivity, and menus, ready to be modified according to one’s needs. It uses ~18% of program space and ~65% of memory for local variables when serial debug is enabled but only ~16% and ~42% without. The hardware has a 3d printable enclosure whose g-code and Freecad files are downloadable too. A little breadboard can be fixed on top with buttons and leds to make the electronic side of experimentation easier, but as long as the reserved pins are respected everything can be run from the touchscreen alone.

Psydice is dedicated to parapsychological research, with a small set of simple experiments for individuals to make in the study of such phenomena as precognition, out of body experiences and telepathy, but without any presumption about the nature of what is being investigated nor the results that can be obtained. Let’s remember that Alan Turing mentionned this issue in Computing machinery and intelligence (1950).

Content files are chosen among 8 sets (astrology, naturalia, shapes, symbols, tarot, yiking, zener and user). The last one, the folder named ‘USR’, is left for the user to put his or her own pictures (24bits, 320×240 bmp files only). I have filled these folders with images picked on the net without particular intention but to furnish some Public domain content usable in visual parapsychology. Except for the closed symbol systems represented by astrology (occidental), Tarot, Yi-king and Zener cards, these content sets can (and should) be replaced or augmented by pictures chosen according to one’s taste or purpose.

The capacities of the Arduino Mega are underemployed in the Mega companion and it can receive a choice of additional pluggable sensor devices thanks to the Grove standard. The goal was not to illustrate epitemological preconceptions with complicated electronics, but to provide an up to day experimental tool ready to respond to scientific hypotheses in an evolving research. Though professionals have had electronic dices for decades, there is no standard equipment on which to rely for the sake of reproducibility. This is a gap that the Mega companion and the Psybox want to fill with open hardware and software.

The Psybox was first made of an Arduino Mega and oriented towards personal experimentation. To make network experiments possible it was then coupled to a Raspberry Pi. The last version didn’t include the Arduino Mega anymore. But some data collector was still needed and the Pi couldn’t play that part as well, so I reintroduced the Arduino Mega and solved the connectivity thru Bluetooth. Now the Psybox can handle all the network and data management – plus some peripherals – while its Mega companion looks for what happens here and now and transmits. In order to investigate parapsychology inidividually, Psydice will suffice. For network experiments the Psybox (or another computer with a similar system) is needed. The main point to stress out is that while the Psybox is still at an experimental stage, Psydice on the contrary is a more mature code and hardware setup that can be used directly for simple experimentation.

The code, content sets, 3d files and documentation can be downloaded from .


Version 0.3 released

With this new release, the Psybox is reaching a higher degree of maturity. It relies now primarily on the RPi (*), which results in drastic simplification: there’s almost no wiring needed anymore on this platform, the whole code (except for Unidatab) is now written in Perl6 and has been given a rather fussy revamping.

Additionally, the Psybox system can now be installed on any computer equipped with Linux, by editing one of the few user-defined variables in the beginning of the main executable, psyboxctl.

This means that, made free from electronic constraints, we can now concentrate on experimental code and the underlying epistemological challenge, which were the reasons the Psybox was created for. This tool has attained the position where it can play its wanted role: providing a framework for experimental research in parapsychology.

Discover more details on these changes here.

(*) The Arduino Mega code is left available for those who want non-connected, individual, implementations of the Psybox concept. But even there (since all the i2c interfacing with RPi can now be ignored) the new design is smarter and implies less wiring.

Good news

Since latest updates in Psybox, Unidatab (and Perl6) things go much better for our experimental tool. After having spent much time in debugging Unidatab I notice that Psybox does actually run fine on Raspberry Pi3 again. It’s a bit slow however, because Pi3 in itself isn’t really powerful enough to run Perl6. But we’ll get along with it anyway.

After discovering the crude reality of hand making the box, I’m orienting the “production” towards 3D printing – exiting perspective. That is for the hardware part, next big intellectual task for 2017: NPE1.